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[mey-hem, mey-uh m] /ˈmeɪ hɛm, ˈmeɪ əm/
Law. the crime of willfully inflicting a bodily injury on another so as to make the victim less capable of self-defense or, under modern statutes, so as to cripple or mutilate the victim.
random or deliberate violence or damage.
a state of rowdy disorder:
Antagonisms between the various factions at the meeting finally boiled over, and mayhem ensued.
Origin of mayhem
1350-1400; Middle English maheym, maim < Anglo-French mahe(i)m, mahaim < Germanic; akin to Middle High German meidem gelding, Old Norse meitha to injure. See maim
Can be confused
maim, mayhem (see synonym study at maim) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mayhem
  • We should be putting down the toys, and getting to work at stopping the mayhem and chaos in our society and the world.
  • mayhem is always in the mix in the morning news, but today it's downright dominating.
  • Remember that the current market mayhem may mean you will be buying low.
  • Even after the mayhem began, the authorities' response was slow.
  • With storm season in full fury last summer, explore the historic mayhem wrought by hurricanes.
  • Check out all the desert mayhem in the gallery above.
  • With storm season in full fury, explore the historic mayhem wrought by hurricanes.
  • The sober language contrasted sharply with the mayhem it provoked.
  • On the other hand the potential for more mayhem when everyone is armed boggles the mind.
  • But the authorities appear at a loss to explain the mayhem.
British Dictionary definitions for mayhem


(law) the wilful and unlawful infliction of injury upon a person, esp (formerly) the injuring or removing of a limb rendering him less capable of defending himself against attack
any violent destruction or confusion
Word Origin
C15: from Anglo-French mahem injury, from Germanic; related to Icelandic meitha to hurt. See maim
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mayhem

late 15c., from Anglo-French maihem (13c.), from Old French mahaigne "injury, wrong, a hurt, harm, damage;" related to mahaignier "to injure, wound, mutilate, cripple" (see maim). Originally, in law, the crime of maiming a person "to make him less able to defend himself or annoy his adversary" [OED].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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