From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search
See also: mêlée


Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from French mêlée, from Old French meslee, feminine past participle of mesler (to mix), derived from Latin misceō (mix). Doublet of medley.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈmɛˌleɪ/, /ˈmɛ.li/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈmeɪˌleɪ/, /meɪˈleɪ/, /ˈmɛˌleɪ/, /məˈleɪ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛleɪ, -ɛli
  • Homophone: Malay (some accents)


melee (countable and uncountable, plural melees)

  1. (especially military, gaming) A battle fought at close range, (especially) one not involving ranged weapons; hand-to-hand combat; brawling.
    • 2019 April 28, Alex McLevy, “Game Of Thrones Suffers the Fog of War in the Battle against the Dead (Newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[1], archived from the original on 31 May 2021:
      Honestly, a lot of what this episode did right had more to do with the scenes that surrounded the enormous melee than those hyper-edited clashes of swords.
    • 2021 March 10, Drachinifel, 5:50 from the start, in Guadalcanal Campaign - The Big Night Battle: Night 1 (IJN 3(?) : 2 USN)[2], archived from the original on 17 October 2022:
      The attack also afforded Helena to a front-seat view of literal air-to-air melee combat, as one Wildcat pilot of the Cactus Air Force, who was swooping in to help break up the attack, found himself out of machine-gun ammo; instead, he dropped his landing gear, positioned himself above the nearest bomber, and begun beating it to death, in midair, using his landing gear as clubs. After a bit of evasive action that the fighter easily kept up with, the repeated slamming broke something important, and the bomber spiralled down into the sea.
  2. A loud, confused or tumultuous fight, argument or scrap.
    • 2012 April 15, Phil McNulty, “Tottenham 1-5 Chelsea”, in BBC[3]:
      The ball did not appear to cross the line, a view supported by television replays as Blues captain John Terry also joined the melee, but referee Atkinson awarded the goal - to the obvious anger of Spurs and their management team.
  3. Any confused, disorganised, disordered or chaotic situation.
    • 2015, James Lambert, “Lexicography as a teaching tool: A Hong Kong case study”, in Lan Li, Jamie McKeown, Liming Liu, editors, Dictionaries and corpora: Innovations in reference science. Proceedings of ASIALEX 2015 Hong Kong, Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, page 147:
      Within this melee of intersections between English and Cantonese, the students, being themselves bilingually fluent, were able to navigate with perfect ease in communicative contexts where the provenance of a certain term or expression matters little.
  4. Lively contention or debate, skirmish.
  5. (military, historical) A cavalry exercise in which two groups of riders try to cut paper plumes off the helmets of their opponents, the contest continuing until no member of one group retains his plume.
  6. Small cut and polished gemstones sold in lots.



melee (third-person singular simple present melees, present participle meleeing, simple past and past participle meleed)

  1. (video games, slang) To physically hit in close quarters, as opposed to shooting, blowing up, or other ranged means of damage. Often refers to the usage of a hand-to-hand weapon.


melee (not comparable)

  1. (gaming) Of a weapon: used in close-range combat.
    • 2018, Wizards of the Coast, Basic Rules for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) Fifth Edition (5e):
      A melee weapon is used to attack a target within 5 feet of you, whereas a ranged weapon is used to attack a target at a distance.