hot mess

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  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌhɑt ˈmɛs/
  • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

hot (warm) + mess (meal; soldiers who eat together).


hot mess (countable and uncountable, plural hot messes)

  1. (military) A warm meal, usually cooked in a large pot, often similar to a stew or porridge; service of such a heated meal to soldiers.
    • 1836 April 29, Frederick Marryat, “Snarleyyow, or the Dog Fiend”, in Arkansas Advocate[1], volume vii, number 4, Little Rock, AR, page 1:
      "Smallbones," said the lieutenant, after trying the hot mess before him, and finding that he was still in danger of burning his mouth, "bring me the red-herring."
    • 1852 January 1, F. L. McClintock, “Lieutenant McClintock to Mr. Fegn, Secretary of the Arctic Committee”, in Morning Post[2], number 24355, London, page 3:
      1 lb. pemican; ¼ lb. pork; ¾ lb. biscuit; ¼ lb flour or bread dust, to mix with pemican into a hot mess;
    • 1919, James Thayer Addison, The Story of the First Gas Regiment[3], page 150:
      I heard several of the enlisted men make the statement that Company C had provided hot mess for fully a thousand men of other units during the second day of the recent drive in and around Cheppy and Charpentry.
    • 1974, Langdon Sully, No Tears for the General: The Life of Alfred Sully, 1821-1879[4], page 119:
      He provided for a hot mess and he got the men up off the floor with improvised bunks.
    • 1980, William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War[5], page 260:
      The men there would have settled for a Coleman stove and a hot-mess line, but the greatest contribution to their spirits, plus or minus, was mail call.

Etymology 2[edit]

hot (uncomfortable) or hot (attractive) + mess (disarray).


hot mess (plural hot messes)

  1. (informal, chiefly US) A situation or object in a state of extreme disarray.
    Synonyms: train wreck, car crash, dumpster fire, shit show
    • 1919 November 13, “The Periscope”, in Camden Post-Telegram[6], number 8134, Camden, NJ, page 5:
      The politician's in a hot mess since the women got the vote -- his wife threatened not to vote for his candidate unless he wipes the dishes.
    • 2019 December 6, Timothy Egan, “America the Hot Mess”, in The New York Times[7], →ISSN:
      We’re a hot mess, this bad-tempered country of ours. More than 40 percent of Republicans are slouching toward full-blown autocracy, favorably disposed, in one poll, toward a presidency unfettered by constitutional checks and balances.
  2. (informal, chiefly US) A disheveled or unbalanced person, particularly one who is nevertheless, or therefore, attractive.
    • 2003, Karyn Bosnak, Save Karyn: One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back[8], page 271:
      My hair had two months of roots exposed. My brows were overgrown. I was a hot mess. And I was fat.
    • 2005, Desiree Day, Crazy Love[9], page 72:
      "Girl, you're a hot mess, but we're cool," she assured her, but her next words were a warning. "But you really need to stop blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind..."
    • 2009, Cobra Starship, Hot Mess (song on the album Hot Mess):
      Well, you're a hot mess and I'm falling for you, and I'm like hot damn, let me make you my boo, [] You're a hot mess, I'm loving it, hell yes!
  3. (informal, obsolete, chiefly Southern US) Trouble.
    I'm in a hot mess.