Definition of mayhem in English:



  • 1Violent or damaging disorder; chaos.

    ‘complete mayhem broke out’
    • ‘They have issues boiling away inside and their only outlet is to cause mayhem in the streets.’
    • ‘Both leaders know they are not just dealing with the mayhem on the streets: they have to keep their backs covered as well.’
    • ‘On two large screens there was distorted video footage of mayhem and destruction.’
    • ‘Nothing much happens to disturb our peace and, when mayhem comes along, we find that a nice cup of tea soon puts it all in proportion.’
    • ‘What unfolds is a riot of comic mayhem as mistaken identity leads to uproarious farce throughout.’
    • ‘But during a troubled century, market mayhem occurred with sickening frequency.’
    • ‘Rebels advanced on the capital which erupted in anarchy and mayhem as armed gangs looted and fought each other on the streets.’
    • ‘If there is a way to cause mayhem, death and destruction, we will find it and improve on it.’
    • ‘The funny climax, shot against the picturesque sand dunes of Dubai, is a mix of madness and mayhem.’
    • ‘My husband leaves a haven of rest and order to come home to mayhem and madness.’
    • ‘But to go from the legal mayhem of rugby union to illegal violence is a small step indeed.’
    • ‘During these times of course registration mayhem you undoubtedly curse the evil that is voice mail.’
    • ‘Some astute observers foresaw the emerging mayhem, but solid evidence took time to accrue.’
    • ‘Even while behind bars they seem capable of causing maximum mayhem.’
    • ‘Lush disco arrangement and harsh synth lines collide into dancefloor mayhem.’
    • ‘Nothing adds up or makes sense and the plot descends into complete mayhem and rage.’
    • ‘It's a slow boat ride that weaves though the darkness amidst illuminated animatronic scenes of pirate mayhem.’
    • ‘High spirits often get out of control and lead to violence and mayhem.’
    • ‘Police say they are winning the war against violent drunks who cause mayhem in the West End of the city at weekends.’
    • ‘Those still in the city described deserted streets and mayhem in the shops as people tried to stock up on essentials.’
    chaos, disorder, confusion, havoc, bedlam, pandemonium, tumult, uproar, turmoil, madness, madhouse, hullabaloo, all hell broken loose, wild disarray, disorganization, maelstrom, trouble, disturbance, commotion, riot, anarchy, destruction, violence
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Law historical The crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone, originally so as to render the victim defenseless.


Early 16th century: from Old French mayhem (see maim). The sense ‘disorder’ (originally US) dates from the late 19th century.