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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To mischief
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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
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
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see make mischief.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Example sentences
He did not cause any damage and he is no longer capable of doing mischief to
  the state government.
Camera-equipped cell phones spread new brands of mischief.
Anderson pleaded no contest to a charge of criminal mischief in the fourth
This farce of romantic mischief is delightfully sung by the fine Italian
Idioms & Phrases
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature