Definition of mischief in English:



mass noun
  • 1Playful misbehaviour, especially on the part of children.

    ‘she'll make sure Danny doesn't get into mischief’
    • ‘But, like anyone with too much fun time on his or her hands, it was also easier to get into mischief.’
    • ‘You can find some harmless mischief to get yourself into, can't you?’
    • ‘Until it is developed in some way, it will continue to be a secret little haven where youngsters can gather to get up to mischief.’
    • ‘But if they're bored and have nothing to do they find mischief.’
    • ‘He came in on Sunday night with that evil little gleam in his eye which signals to everyone, except Tess, that he is up to mischief.’
    • ‘Dogs, just like humans, forget, get distracted, make mistakes, get into mischief and act on impulse.’
    • ‘If they aren't out on the streets then they can't be up to mischief can they?’
    • ‘These shenanigans are just a little fun mischief, and aside from the multiple names at Safeway don't even disturb the data-mining enterprise behind the cards.’
    • ‘Bubbles is a little monkey, which always gets into mischief and problems.’
    • ‘Pranks and mischief began to be played out to represent the mischievous behaviour attributed to witches and the fairies.’
    • ‘I can't understand why people don't want this thing when the children are so bored and get up to mischief.’
    • ‘Then, as they were spooning the dough into cookie shapes, they returned to their usual mischief.’
    • ‘It merely emphasises the fact that parents are aware that children tend to get into mischief and do not exercise the same degree of responsibility for safety as adults.’
    • ‘That is going to create enormous potential for mischief and worse.’
    • ‘‘David was always up to mischief with his mates,’ Tracy said.’
    • ‘Yes, we were naughty at times and got up to some serious mischief in our teenage years, but there were limitations and boundaries that would never be crossed.’
    • ‘A group of youngsters are up to mischief in a local wood when they decide to go in search of a derelict house where, according to local legend, a weird old witch used to live.’
    • ‘Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of harmless mischief now and then.’
    • ‘But sometimes puppies get into mischief that's more risky than amusing, and this adventuresome spirit can spell danger.’
    • ‘She estimates it was 20 to 30 seconds during which she had her back turned on these students, when they got up to mischief and this incident happened.’
    • ‘They are both six years old and are always up to mischief.’
    naughtiness, badness, bad behaviour, misbehaviour, mischievousness, misconduct, misdemeanour, perversity, disobedience, pranks, tricks, larks, capers, nonsense, roguery, devilry, funny business
    impishness, roguishness, devilment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Playfulness that is intended to tease or create trouble.
      ‘her eyes twinkled with irrepressible mischief’
      • ‘Adam smiled then and mischief danced in his eyes for one last moment.’
      • ‘Josh nodded seriously, with mischief twinkling in his eyes.’
      • ‘As a girl quietly in love, there is mischief in her graces, grace in her mischief.’
      • ‘She rubbed my arm comfortingly with a small twinkle of mischief that I had seen somewhere else.’
      • ‘He leaned towards Christopher, a glimmer of mischief sparkling in his blue eyes.’
      • ‘Mischief twinkled in his features for the first time since Anna had known him.’
      • ‘His striking blue eyes sparkled with boyish mischief.’
      • ‘The fiery redhead grinned, mischief sparkled in those deep emerald eyes.’
      • ‘Abby smirked, pure mischief dancing in her eyes.’
      • ‘As boys are wont to be, they were full of nonsense and mischief.’
      • ‘His eyes were twinkling with mischief and a playful smile hovered on his lips.’
      • ‘Both twins grinned and raised their eyes to meet mine, mischief sparkling in them.’
      • ‘He turned, mischief in his eyes, and pitched it at her head.’
      • ‘Sean saw me first, and elbowed Mark in the side, who snapped his head up angrily, saw me, and smiled in a way I had never seen a mix between mischief and malice.’
      • ‘Margaret with smiling mischief in her features might bother to ask if any young man has finally caught my fancy.’
      • ‘It could fairly be stated that, in his time, Stewart at least peeked into a couple of life's darker corners, but with mischief more than malice.’
      • ‘She stared blankly ahead and spoke in a voice devoid of her usual devilish mischief.’
      • ‘I smile at him, and I can read the mischief in his eyes.’
      • ‘There was a slight mischief in her eyes and a smirk on his lips.’
      • ‘Lafayette smiled, his eyes sparkling with that boyish mischief again.’
  • 2Harm or trouble caused by someone or something.

    ‘she was bent on making mischief’
    • ‘New technology keeps showing up, making more mischief, or benefits, possible.’
    • ‘Sure, they created lots of mischief and unnecessary work which cost a buck or two to put right, but that's all.’
    • ‘And he delights in the thought of making mischief closer to home, too.’
    • ‘The ‘pockets of resistance’ in the southern towns have been able to make mischief because they blend in with the local populations.’
    • ‘Such a thing can cause huge mischief, when these contradictory streams collide.’
    • ‘It creates mischief and division in a good area where many people are working to eradicate those problems that do exist.’
    • ‘The idea was to entice teenagers off the streets on Saturdays when they might be making mischief, but Sonja never imagined how successful it would be.’
    • ‘Or call it a girly choice, if you want to make a little mischief.’
    • ‘He wasn't creating any mischief, and he stayed on the cement next to his car.’
    • ‘Now, I can't say whether they intended mischief or not, but in my books they have the right to be presumed innocent only until proven foreign.’
    • ‘The former group are intent on making mischief, the latter on making meaning out of an event which still has none.’
    • ‘‘We are determined to starve this small number of localised extremists from being able to carry out their mischief,’ he said.’
    • ‘There was a remedy if the mischief caused by the breach could be removed.’
    • ‘How to cure that mischief has caused furious debate.’
    • ‘So this division has caused a great deal of mischief, a great deal of harm, a great deal of sorrow.’
    • ‘I didn't hear any yelling, so daddy didn't cause any mischief.’
    • ‘Otherwise, in solving this case, we might create mischief for many, many other provisions.’
    • ‘But the real mischief created in this legislation, and where the angst and anguish will live with us for future generations, is this new regime that it creates.’
    • ‘I suspect that this will in many respects backfire and is going to create a lot more mischief and a lot more misery.’
    harm, hurt, an injury
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    1. 2.1archaic count noun A person responsible for harm or annoyance.
      • ‘What a mischief was that boy who trespassed behind the stage and over it only to slip and use her to break his fall.’
  • 3Law
    A wrong or hardship that a statute is designed to remove or for which the common law affords a remedy.

    ‘the statute was passed to prevent a mischief in respect of which the defendant was already under a duty at common law’
    • ‘There is no redress against that mischief for somebody who at the end of the day is found to be innocent, and those are all no doubt factors which Parliament had in mind in laying down the provisions that it did.’
    • ‘The substantial mischief against which Article 8 provides protection is the accumulation of private information by a public authority.’
    • ‘This mischief has now been remedied by section 51 of the Supreme Court Act 1981.’
    • ‘The mischief that section 42 is designed to prevent is repeated litigation against the same person on the same issue.’
    • ‘It seems to come to this: what is a situation where the statute that is then enacted upon its proper construction happens to go beyond remedying the mischief?’


  • do someone (or oneself) a mischief

    • informal Injure someone or oneself.

      ‘I would have done myself a mischief if I'd carried on’
      • ‘But is there a chance he'll do himself a mischief?’
      • ‘‘Steady on,’ said a male voice from within, ‘you'll do yourself a mischief.’’
      • ‘For God's sake, calm down before you do yourself a mischief!’
      • ‘She leapt out of her stretch position without doing herself a mischief that would be regretted later, and called the story in to the news desk.’


Late Middle English (denoting misfortune or distress): from Old French meschief, from the verb meschever, from mes- ‘adversely’ + chever ‘come to an end’ (from chef ‘head’).