No, that is not a picture of my dresser. I don’t think . . . 😉

So this is another one of those words that is a big part of our everyday language, but which has some surprisingly late additions to it!

As a noun, mess has been around since about 1300–as a word for “food for one meal.” It’s from the Latin, via the French, meaning literally “a course of food.” By 1530, it had been extended to the military use of “a communal place for eating” and then “the group of people eating.”

It wasn’t until the 1730s that it became “mixed food,” especially for animals. But that meaning is what led people to apply mess contemptuously to any “jumble or mix” of things in the 1820s, which quickly took on the metaphorical sense of “state of confusion” or “untidiness” (by 1850s).

The verb form largely mirrors the noun; first it meant “to serve up portions” or “take one’s meal,” extending into the metaphorical senses as the noun did. So in the 1850s we got make a mess, and mess with, as in “interfere with” is from 1903. Mess up, however, didn’t come along until 1933! Which is, of course, the one I wanted to use in my book and couldn’t, LOL.


First of all, don’t forget that I’ll be doing my next live chat tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern on my Facebook Page!

Next, as I was chatting with my friend on our writing retreat, she shared an idea I think I’ll start instituting–namely, pulling old articles from my archives and reposting them once a week or so, since I have nine years’ worth of ’em. I’ll probably do this on weeks when I don’t manage my three posts on M/W/T and will create “Fridays from the Archives.” Categories may vary, but it should be fun to revisit!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email