- The definition of a shambles is a state or condition of complete disorder.
An example of a shambles is an extremely messy house after a teen has a huge party when his parents are away for the weekend.
- Brit. a place where meat is sold; butcher's stall or shop: now only a local usage, esp. in street names
- a slaughterhouse
- a scene of great slaughter, bloodshed, or carnage
- any scene or condition of great destruction or disorder: rooms left a shambles by conventioneers
Origin: Middle English schamel, bench, as for displaying meat for sale from Old English scamol, bench or stool, akin to German schemel from early West Germanic borrowing from Classical Latin scamellum, diminutive from scamnum, bench from Indo-European base an unverified form skabh-, an unverified form skambh-, to prop up from source Sanskrit skámbhana-, a support
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plural noun (used with a sing. verb)
- a. A scene or condition of complete disorder or ruin: “The economy was in a shambles” (W. Bruce Lincoln).b. Great clutter or jumble; a total mess: made dinner and left the kitchen a shambles.
- a. A place or scene of bloodshed or carnage.b. A scene or condition of great devastation.
- A slaughterhouse.
- Archaic A meat market or butcher shop.
Origin: From Middle English shamel, shambil, place where meat is butchered and sold, from Old English sceamol, table, from Latin scabillum, scamillum, diminutive of scamnum, bench, stool.Word History: A place or situation referred to as a shambles is usually a mess, but it is no longer always the bloody mess it once was. The history of the word begins innocently enough with the Latin word scamnum, “a stool or bench serving as a seat, step, or support for the feet, for example.” The diminutive scamillum, “low stool,” was borrowed by speakers of Old English as sceamol, “stool, bench, table.” Old English sceamol became Middle English shamel, which developed the specific sense in the singular and plural of “a place where meat is butchered and sold.” The Middle English compound shamelhouse meant “slaughterhouse,” a sense that the plural shambles developed (first recorded in 1548) along with the figurative sense “a place or scene of bloodshed” (first recorded in 1593). Our current, more generalized meaning, “a scene or condition of disorder,” is first recorded in 1926.