mess up  /ˈmɛsˈʌp/  verb

  • Status: informal

    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.
    • I 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. = Her hair got messed up in the wind.

    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.

    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[=has not worked properly] ever since I dropped it in the sink.
    • The mountains messed up the cell phone signal.

    3 a mess (someone) up or mess up (someone) US : to beat and injure (someone)

    • He got messed up[=roughed up, beaten up] by a gang of bullies.
    • They messed him up pretty badly.

    3 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.