(1)   A (large) military dining room where service personnel eat or relax
(2)   A meal eaten in a mess hall by service personnel
(3)   Soft semiliquid food
"A mess of porridge"
(4)   (often followed by `of') a large number or amount or extent
"A batch of letters"
"A deal of trouble"
"A lot of money"
"He made a mint on the stock market"
"It must have cost plenty"
(5)   Informal terms for a difficult situation
"He got into a terrible fix"
"He made a muddle of his marriage"
(6)   A state of confusion and disorderliness
"The house was a mess"
"She smoothed the mussiness of the bed"


(7)   Make a mess of or create disorder in
"He messed up his room"
(8)   Eat in a mess hall

Etymology 1

, , , < (e.g. on the table), . See , and compare .


  1. Mass; church service.
  2. 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 a beast at one time.
    A mess of pottage.
  3. A number of persons who eat together, and for whom food is prepared in common; especially, persons in the military or naval service 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.
  5. The milk given by a cow at one milking.


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

Etymology 2

Perhaps a corruption of , compare .


  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.
  2. A large quantity or number.
    My boss dumped a whole mess of projects on my desk today.