Meaning of “mess around” in the English Dictionary

"mess around" in British English

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mess around

UK also mess about
phrasal verb with mess uk /mes/ us /mes/ verb


C1 informal to spend time doing various things that are not important, without any particular purpose or plan:

My brother likes messing around with computers.
He spent the day with friends, just messing about.

More examples

  • He spends all day messing around with the dogs instead of working.
  • Stop messing around watching the telly, and come and help me.
  • We spent the week messing around in the cottage.
  • I need to stop messing around and make some decisions.


to behave in a stupid or annoying way:

Stop messing around and listen to me!

More examples

  • Immediately after she'd gone, the boys started to mess around.
  • The children were driving me mad by messing around all the time.
  • Stop messing around - I'm trying to be serious.
  • He spent all his time at school just messing around.

(Definition of “mess around” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"mess around" in American English

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mess around

phrasal verb with mess

to waste time doing something without a particular purpose:

The kids were just messing around at the mall.

(Definition of “mess around” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)