mess up  /ˈmɛs ˈʌp/   verb


1 : to make a mistake : to do something incorrectly

  • About halfway into the recipe, I realized that I had messed up, and I had to start over.

— often followed by on

  • She’s afraid she’ll mess up on the test.
  • messed up on my first attempt.

2 a mess something up or mess up something : to make mistakes when you are doing or making (something)

2 b mess something up or mess up something : to make (something) dirty or untidy : to make a mess of (something)

  • Don’t mess up my room
  • The wind messed up her hair.

2 c mess something up or mess up something : to damage or ruin something

  • She’s really messed up her life
  • His life has been messed up by his drug addiction.

3: to damage or change something so that it does not work properly

  • I don’t know what I did, but I somehow messed up the computer.
  • My watch has been messed up ever since I dropped it in the sink.
  • The mountains messed up the cell phone signal.

4 a mess someone up or mess up someone : to beat and injure someone

  • He got messed up by a gang of bullies.
  • They messed him up pretty badly.

4 b mess someone up or mess up someone : to make someone very upset and unhappy

  • Breaking up with her boyfriend has really messed her up.
  • She’s been pretty messed up ever since she broke up with her boyfriend.