Etymology: Middle English mes, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin missus course at a meal, from missus, past participle of mittere to put, from Latin, to send — more at smite
Date: 14th century
1. a quantity of food:
a. archaic food set on a table at one time
b. a prepared dish of soft food; also a mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together
c. enough food of a specified kind for a dish or a meal <picked a mess of peas for dinner> 2. a. a group of persons who regularly take their meals together; also a meal so taken b. a place where meals are regularly served to a group ; mess hall 3. a. a disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant state or condition <your room is in a mess> b. one that is disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant usually because of blundering, laxity, or misconduct <[the movie] is a mess, as sloppy in concept as it is in execution — Judith Crist> <made a mess of his life> 4. a large quantity or number <a mess of problems> II. verb Date: 14th century transitive verb 1. to provide with meals at a mess 2. a. to make dirty or untidy ; disarrange — often used with up <don't mess up your room> b. to mix up ; bungle — often used with up <really messed up my life> 3. to interfere with — often used with up <magnetic storms that mess up communications — Time> 4. to rough up ; manhandle — often used with up <mess him up good so he won't cheat us again> intransitive verb 1. to take meals with a mess 2. to make a mess 3. a. putter, trifle <children like to mess around with paints> b. to handle or play with something especially carelessly <don't mess with my camera> — often used with around c. to take an active interest in something or someone <messing around with new video techniques>; also interfere, meddle <messing in other people's affairs> <you'd better not mess with me> 4. to become confused or make an error — usually used with up <got another chance and messed up again>
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.