Definition of mess noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//mes//
    ; NAmE NAmE//mes//
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    untidy state
  1. 1  [countable, usually singular] a dirty or untidy state The room was in a mess. The kids made a mess in the bathroom. What a mess!’ she said, surveying the scene after the party. My hair's a real mess!
  2. difficult situation
  3. 2  [countable, usually singular] a situation that is full of problems, usually because of a lack of organization or because of mistakes that somebody has made The economy is in a mess. I feel I've made a mess of things. The whole situation is a mess. Let's try to sort out the mess. The biggest question is how they got into this mess in the first place. (ironic) That’s another fine mess you’ve got us into.
  4. person
  5. 3[singular] a person who is dirty or whose clothes and hair are not tidy You're a mess!
  6. 4[singular] (informal) a person who has serious problems and is in a bad mental condition When my wife left me I was a total mess.
  7. animal waste
  8. 5[uncountable, countable] (informal) the excrement (= solid waste matter) of an animal, usually a dog or cat
  9. a lot
  10. 6[singular] a mess of something (North American English, informal) a lot of something There's a mess of fish down there, so get your lines in the water.
  11. armed forces
  12. 7 [countable] (also mess hall especially in North American English) a building or room in which members of the armed forces have their meals the officers’ mess
  13. Word OriginMiddle English: from Old French mes ‘portion of food’, from late Latin missum ‘something put on the table’, past participle of mittere ‘send, put’. The original sense was ‘a serving of (semi-liquid) food’, later ‘liquid food for an animal’; this gave rise (early 19th cent.) to the senses ‘unappetizing concoction’ and ‘predicament’, on which senses 1, 3 and 4 are based. In late Middle English the term also denoted any of the small groups into which the company at a banquet was divided (who were served from the same dishes); hence, ‘a group who regularly eat together’ (recorded in military use from the mid 16th cent.).Extra examples He’s been an emotional mess since his girlfriend left him. Her hair was a tangled mess. I felt a mess. I got myself into a complete mess. I have to try to fix the mess you caused. I’m in a huge mess. I don’t know what to do. I’ve really made a mess of things! Must you always leave such a mess? My life’s becoming a big mess. She felt she was making a terrible mess of her life. She searched through the mess of papers on her desk. Soon both fighters were a bloody mess of flying punches. That was what caused this whole mess in the first place. The kitchen’s in an awful mess. The plot is an incoherent mess. The whole situation is a giant mess. There was a soggy mess of porridge on the table. We found ourselves in a real mess. Who got us into this mess in the first place? Why don’t you clean up this disgusting mess? You started this entire mess! ‘ What a mess!’ she said, surveying the scene after the party. A new managing director has been appointed to clear up the financial mess. How do we get out of this mess? I spent hours clearing up the mess. Let’s try to sort out the mess. My hair’s a real mess! Sorry, this place is a bit of a mess. The economy is in a mess. The room was in a mess. There is still a way out of this economic mess. There was a tangled mess of wires under her desk. They’ve left the most terrible mess in their bedrooms.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: mess