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mess around or about (with)

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WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2020
mess /mɛs/USA pronunciation   n. 
  1. a dirty or disorderly state: [countable;  singular]Things are in a mess here.[uncountable]How much mess did they make?
  2. a dirty or disorderly person or thing:[countable]The room is a mess. Look at your clothes; you're a mess.
  3. a dirty or untidy mass;
    jumble:[countable]a mess of papers.
  4. an unpleasant situation;
    trouble:[countable;  usually singular]Look at the mess you've gotten us into now.
  5. [countable] a group, as in the military, regularly taking their meals together.
  6. [uncountable] the meal so taken.
  7. [countable] mess hall.

  1. to make dirty or untidy: [+ object]Please, you're messing my hair.[+ up + object]Don't mess up the room![+ object + up]Don't mess it up!
  2. mess around or  about: 
    • [no object] to busy oneself without purpose;
      waste time:He was just messing around.
    • [+ around/about + with + object] to involve oneself, esp. for unlawful purposes, or in some dangerous way:to mess around with gamblers.
    • [+ around/about (+ with + object ) ] to have sexual affairs:to mess around (with other women).
  3. mess in or  with, [+ ~ + in/with + object] to interfere with (someone);
    meddle:Stop messing in my affairs.
  4. mess up: 
    • [no object] to perform poorly;
      produce errors or confusion:It's your big chance, so don't mess up.
    • to make a mess of (affairs, etc.);
      spoil or ruin: [+ up + object]to mess up all our plans.[+ object + up]to mess things up.
    • to treat roughly;
      beat up: [+ object + up]The gang messed him up.[+ up + object]promised to mess up anyone who got in his way.
  5. mess with, [+ with + object] to become involved with (someone or something dangerous):Don't mess with drugs.

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2020
mess  (mes),USA pronunciation n. 
  1. a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition:The room was in a mess.
  2. a person or thing that is dirty, untidy, or disordered.
  3. a state of embarrassing confusion:My affairs are in a mess.
  4. an unpleasant or difficult situation:She got into a mess driving without a license.
  5. a dirty or untidy mass, litter, or jumble:a mess of papers.
  6. a group regularly taking their meals together.
  7. the meal so taken.
  8. See  mess hall. 
  9. NauticalNaval. messroom.
  10. a quantity of food sufficient for a dish or a single occasion:to pick a mess of sweet corn for dinner.
  11. a sloppy or unappetizing preparation of food.
  12. a dish or quantity of soft or liquid food:to cook up a nice mess of pottage.
  13. a person whose life or affairs are in a state of confusion, esp. a person with a confused or disorganized moral or psychological outlook.

  1. to make dirty or untidy (often fol. by up):Don't mess the room.
  2. to make a mess or muddle of (affairs, responsibilities, etc.) (often fol. by up):They messed the deal.
  3. to supply with meals, as military personnel.
  4. to treat roughly;
    beat up (usually followed by up):The gang messed him up.

  1. to eat in company, esp. as a member of a mess.
  2. to make a dirty or untidy mess.
  3. mess around or  about: 
    • Informal Termsto busy oneself without purpose or plan;
      work aimlessly or halfheartedly;
    • Informal Termsto waste time;
    • Informal Termsto meddle or interfere.
    • Informal Termsto involve or associate oneself, esp. for immoral or unethical purposes:His wife accused him of messing around with gamblers.
    • Slang Termsto trifle sexually;
  4. mess in or  with, to intervene officiously;
    meddle:You'll get no thanks for messing in the affairs of others.
  5. mess up: 
    • to make dirty, untidy, or disordered.
    • to make muddled, confused, etc.;
      make a mess of;
    • to perform poorly;
      bungle:She messed up on the final exam.
  • Late Latin missus what is sent (i.e., put on the table), noun, nominal use of past participle of Latin mittere to send
  • Old French: a course at a meal
  • Middle English mes 1250–1300
    • 3.See corresponding entry in Unabridged muddle, farrago, hodgepodge.
    • 4.See corresponding entry in Unabridged predicament, plight, muddle, pickle.
    • 15.See corresponding entry in Unabridged confuse, mix up.
    • 1.See corresponding entry in Unabridged tidiness.
    • 3.See corresponding entry in Unabridged order.
    • 15.See corresponding entry in Unabridged arrange.

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::
mess /mɛs/ n
  1. a state of confusion or untidiness, esp if dirty or unpleasant
  2. a chaotic or troublesome state of affairs; muddle
  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
  6. a group of people, usually servicemen, who eat together
  7. the meal so taken
  1. (transitive) often followed by up: to muddle or dirty
  2. (intransitive) to make a mess
  3. (intransitive) often followed by with: to interfere; meddle
  4. (intr; often followed by with or together) to group together, esp for eating
Etymology: 13th Century: from Old French mes dish of food, from Late Latin missus course (at table), from Latin mittere to send forth, set out
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