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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English mes, partly from Old English mēse, mēose (table; that which is on a table; dish, food; meal, dinner; see mese); and partly from Old French mes, Late Latin missum, from mittere(to put, place) (e.g. on the table), Latin mittere(to send). See mission, and compare Mass(religious service). More at mese; see also mease.


mess (plural messes)

  1. (obsolete) Mass; a church service.
  2. (archaic) A quantity of food set on a table at one time; provision of food for a person or party for one meal; also, the food given to an animal at one time.
    A mess of pottage.
    • Milton
      At their savoury dinner set / Of herbs and other country messes.
  3. A number of persons who eat together, and for whom food is prepared in common, especially military personnel who eat at the same table.
    the wardroom mess
  4. A set of four (from the old practice of dividing companies into sets of four at dinner).
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Latimer to this entry?)
  5. (US) The milk given by a cow at one milking.
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mess (third-person singular simple present messes, present participle messing, simple past and past participle messed)

  1. (intransitive) To take meals with a mess.
  2. (intransitive) To belong to a mess.
  3. (intransitive) To eat (with others).
    I mess with the wardroom officers.
  4. (transitive) To supply with a mess.

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Etymology 2[edit]

Perhaps a corruption of Middle English mesh(for mash), compare muss, or derived from Etymology 1 "mixed foods, as for animals".


mess (uncountable)

  1. A disagreeable mixture or confusion of things; hence, a situation resulting from blundering or from misunderstanding; a disorder.
    He made a mess of it.
    My bedroom is such a mess, I need to tidy up.
  2. (colloquial) A large quantity or number.
    My boss dumped a whole mess of projects on my desk today.
    She brought back a mess of fish to fix for supper.
  3. (euphemistic) Excrement.
    There was dog mess all along the street.
    Parked under a tree, my car was soon covered in birds' mess.


mess (third-person singular simple present messes, present participle messing, simple past and past participle messed)

  1. (transitive) To make a mess of.
  2. (transitive) To throw into confusion.
    • Scribner's Magazine
      It wasn't right either to be messing another man's sleep.
  3. (intransitive) To interfere.
    This doesn't concern you. Don't mess.
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From Old Irish mes.



mess m (genitive singular mess, plural messyn)

  1. (botany) fruit

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Manx mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
mess vess unchanged
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.



mess n

  1. brass

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