confusion and fear, usually caused by violent behaviour or by some sudden shocking event There was absolute mayhem when everyone tried to get out at once. It only takes a few stupid people to create mayhem in a crowd. The gales caused mayhem across much of the country. The terrorists brought mayhem to the crowded shopping area. See related entries: Fear Word Origin early 16th cent.: from Old French mayhem (see maim). The sense ‘disorder’ (originally US) dates from the late 19th cent.