If something is not organized, it might be a mess. A mess results when things are not in order, or when mistakes are made. A mess could also be a problem that is not easy to fix.


  • Linda created a big mess in the kitchen as she was making a cake.
  • Terry’s hair is a mess today.
  • My son has to clean his room. It’s a mess.
  • Traffic is a big mess this morning due to a construction project.
  • The situation in the Middle East is a mess.

In the next set of sentences, the word "mess" is a verb:

simplepastpast participle
  • The children messed up the whole house when they had their friends over. (The preposition "up" often follows the word "mess.")
  • The house was all messed up.
  • John said he messed up his test.
  • I’m sorry, I messed up. (In this sentence, "mess up" means to make a mistake.)

As a form of slang, "mess" + "with" = mess with. To mess with something or someone means to change, touch, adjust, fool, or cause trouble:

  • Don’t mess with my computer. (Don’t change anything on it.)
  • Tim’s not serious. He’s just messing with you. (He’s just joking.)
  • This optical illusion is messing with my head.

To mess around is to have a relationship with another person.

  • Tina caught her husband messing around with another woman.
  • A couple of teenagers were messing around in the backseat of a car until a police officer walked up and tapped on the window.

However, to mess around is also similar to goof around or screw around.

  • Stop messing around and get back to work.
  • The kids are messing around in the basement.

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This page was first published on October 1, 2012. It was updated on October 23, 2015.