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(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)



free-for-all (plural free-for-alls)

  1. Chaos; a chaotic situation lacking rules or control.
    When the fire alarm went off, it was a free-for-all.
    • 1919, Burton Jesse Hendrick, The Age of Big Business[1]:
      Competition was the order of the day: the industrial warfare of the sixties was a free-for-all.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 134:
      [] this was a consequence of building Tubes by means of a competitive free-for-all. Each company wanted to expand its territory at the expense of the others.
  2. (video games) Deathmatch, sometimes specifically one in which every player is pitted against all the others.



free-for-all (not comparable)

  1. (of a fight, competition etc.) Open to anyone and with no or few rules.
    • 1913 October, Jack London, The Valley of the Moon, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, →OCLC:
      Men, as well as women, were springing in to the rope and pulling. No longer was it team against team, but all Oakland against all San Francisco, festooned with a free-for-all fight.
    • 1917, Zane Grey, Wildfire[2]:
      Then Lucy told him about the great passion of her father—about the long, time-honored custom of free-for-all races, and the great races that had been run in the past; []
    • 2022 October 27, Lauren Hirsch, quoting Elon Musk, “Elon Musk Reaches Out to Advertisers Ahead of Deadline for Twitter Deal”, in The New York Times[3], →ISSN:
      But, he added, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences!”

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