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Alternative forms[edit]


UK late-19th century.[1][2] Borrowed from Yiddish שלימזל (shlimazl, misfortune), from Middle High German slim (crooked) and Hebrew מַזָּל (mazzāl, luck). Cognate with US English schlimazel (unlucky person). Compare German Schlamassel.


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shemozzle (plural shemozzles)

  1. (slang) A state of chaos or confusion.
    • 1962, Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side:
      "No end of a shemozzle there’s been there lately," he said. "Marina Gregg's been having hysterics most days. Said some coffee she was given was poisoned."
    • 2017 June 23, Charles Moore, “This country has come through many a crisis, but this one is a true shemozzle”, in The Telegraph[1]:
      I always found it helpful that we retained one elderly member of staff who could offer a different perspective. “Well,” he would begin, “the last time we had one of these shemozzles…”. The mere fact that he could remember past disasters – and had lived to tell the tale – was reassuring.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:shemozzle.
  2. (slang) A quarrel or rumpus.
    • 1901, James Maclaren Cobban, The Golden Tooth:
      If Will comes out of this shemozzle.
    • 1939, James Joyce, Finnegans Wake:
      [] but tarned long and then a nation louder, while engaged in swallowing from a large ampullar, that his pawdry's purgatory was more than nigger bloke could bear, hemiparalysed by the tong warfare and all the shemozzle, (Daily Maily, fullup Lace! Holy Maly, Mothelup Joss!) his cheeks and trousers changing colour every time a gat croaked.
    • 2018 February 8, Ian O'Riordan, “GAA Congress to separate a melee and a shemozzle”, in The Irish Times[2]:
      When does a melee actually become a melee? And what differentiates a melee from a shemozzle and a free-for-all? Or indeed minor physical interference? Hardly the most pressing of national matters, but probably the most interesting question going before Congress later this month.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:shemozzle.


Related terms[edit]


shemozzle (third-person singular simple present shemozzles, present participle shemozzling, simple past and past participle shemozzled)

  1. (slang) To scarper; to run away; to flee.



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “schlemazel”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved 2 May 2018:British slang shemozzle 'an unhappy plight' (1889) is probably from the same source.
  2. ^ shemozzle”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022: “Origin: Late 19th century”.