conduct or activity that playfully causes petty annoyance.
a tendency or disposition to tease, vex, or annoy.
a vexatious or annoying action.
harm or trouble, especially as a result of an agent or cause.
an injury or evil caused by a person or other agent or cause.
a cause or source of harm, evil, or annoyance.
the devil.

1250–1300; Middle English meschef < Old French, noun derivative of meschever to end badly, come to grief. See mis-1, achieve

4. hurt. See damage.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
mischief (ˈmɪstʃɪf)
1.  wayward but not malicious behaviour, usually of children, that causes trouble, irritation, etc
2.  a playful inclination to behave in this way or to tease or disturb
3.  injury or harm caused by a person or thing
4.  a person, esp a child, who is mischievous
5.  a source of trouble, difficulty, etc: floods are a great mischief to the farmer
[C13: from Old French meschief disaster, from meschever to meet with calamity; from mes-mis-1 + chever to reach an end, from chef end, chief]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "evil condition, misfortune, need, want," from O.Fr. meschief (Fr. méchef), verbal noun from meschever "come or bring to grief, be unfortunate" (opposite of achieve), from mes- "badly" (see mis- (2)) + chever "happen, come to a head," from V.L. *capare "head,"
from L. caput "head" (see head). Meaning "harm or evil considered as the work of some agent or due to some cause" is from late 15c. Sense of "playful malice" first recorded 1784. Mischief Night in 19c. England was the eve of May Day and of Nov. 5, both major holidays, and perhaps the original point was pilfering for the next day's celebration and bonfire; but in Yorkshire, Scotland, and Ireland the night was Halloween. The useful M.E. verb mischieve (early 14c.) has, for some reason, fallen from currency.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
But the practical mischiefs of the existing abuses are not in the possible future only.
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