mess around


a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition: The room was in a mess.
a person or thing that is dirty, untidy, or disordered.
a state of embarrassing confusion: My affairs are in a mess.
an unpleasant or difficult situation: She got into a mess driving without a license.
a dirty or untidy mass, litter, or jumble: a mess of papers.
a group regularly taking their meals together.
the meal so taken.
Naval. messroom.
a quantity of food sufficient for a dish or a single occasion: to pick a mess of sweet corn for dinner.
a sloppy or unappetizing preparation of food.
a dish or quantity of soft or liquid food: to cook up a nice mess of pottage.
a person whose life or affairs are in a state of confusion, especially a person with a confused or disorganized moral or psychological outlook.
verb (used with object)
to make dirty or untidy (often followed by up ): Don't mess the room.
to make a mess or muddle of (affairs, responsibilities, etc.) (often followed by up ): They messed the deal.
to supply with meals, as military personnel.
to treat roughly; beat up (usually followed by up ): The gang messed him up.
verb (used without object)
to eat in company, especially as a member of a mess.
to make a dirty or untidy mess.
Verb phrases
mess around/about,
Informal. to busy oneself without purpose or plan; work aimlessly or halfheartedly; putter.
Informal. to waste time; loaf.
Informal. to meddle or interfere.
Informal. to involve or associate oneself, especially for immoral or unethical purposes: His wife accused him of messing around with gamblers.
Slang. to trifle sexually; philander.
mess in/with, to intervene officiously; meddle: You'll get no thanks for messing in the affairs of others.
mess up,
to make dirty, untidy, or disordered.
to make muddled, confused, etc.; make a mess of; spoil; botch.
to perform poorly; bungle: She messed up on the final exam.

1250–1300; Middle English mes < Old French: a course at a meal < Late Latin missus what is sent (i.e., put on the table), noun use of past participle of Latin mittere to send

3. muddle, farrago, hodgepodge. 4. predicament, plight, muddle, pickle. 15. confuse, mix up.

1. tidiness. 3. order. 15. arrange. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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World English Dictionary
mess about or mess around
vb (when intr, often foll by with) (sometimes foll by with)
1.  (intr) to occupy oneself trivially; potter
2.  to interfere or meddle (with)
3.  chiefly (US) to engage in adultery
mess around or mess around

mess (mɛs)
1.  a state of confusion or untidiness, esp if dirty or unpleasant: the house was in a mess
2.  a chaotic or troublesome state of affairs; muddle: his life was a mess
3.  informal a dirty or untidy person or thing
4.  archaic a portion of food, esp soft or semiliquid food
5.  a place where service personnel eat or take recreation: an officers' mess
6.  a group of people, usually servicemen, who eat together
7.  the meal so taken
8.  mess of pottage a material gain involving the sacrifice of a higher value
vb (often foll by up) (often foll by with)
9.  to muddle or dirty
10.  (intr) to make a mess
11.  to interfere; meddle
12.  (intr; often foll by with or together) military to group together, esp for eating
[C13: from Old French mes dish of food, from Late Latin missus course (at table), from Latin mittere to send forth, set out]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "food for one meal, pottage," from O.Fr. mes "portion of food, course at dinner," from L.L. missus "course at dinner," lit. "placing, putting (on a table, etc.)," from mittere "to put, place," from L. mittere "to send, let go" (see mission). Sense of "mixed food"
led to contemptuous use for "jumble, mixed mass" (1828), and figurative sense of "state of confusion" (1834), as well as "condition of untidiness" (1851). Meaning "communal eating place"(esp. a military one) is first attested 1530s, from earlier sense of "company of persons eating together" (early 15c.), originally a group of four. To mess with "interfere, get involved" is from 1903; mess up "make a mistake, get in trouble" is from 1933, both originally Amer.Eng. colloquial.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Mess definition

a portion of food given to a guest (Gen. 43:34; 2 Sam. 11:8).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

mess around

see fool around.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Idioms & Phrases
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