shambles [sham′bəlz]
ME schamel, bench, as for displaying meat for sale < OE scamol, bench or stool, akin to Ger schemel < early WGmc borrowing < L scamellum, dim. < scamnum, bench < IE base * skabh-, * skambh-, to prop up > Sans skámbhana-, a support
1. Brit. a place where meat is sold; butcher's stall or shop: now only a local usage, esp. in street names
2. a slaughterhouse
3. a scene of great slaughter, bloodshed, or carnage
4. any scene or condition of great destruction or disorder [rooms left a shambles by conventioneers]

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sham·bles (shămʹbəlz) pl.n. (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.
3. A slaughterhouse.
4. Archaic. A meat market or butcher shop.
  [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.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • shambles — The word now most commonly used to mean ‘a mess or muddle’ has a colourful history. It started life in Old English in the singular form shamble meaning ‘a stool or footstool’, came to refer to a table or stall for the sale of meat, and was then… …   Modern English usage

  • shambles — [sham′bəlz] n. [ME schamel, bench, as for displaying meat for sale < OE scamol, bench or stool, akin to Ger schemel < early WGmc borrowing < L scamellum, dim. < scamnum, bench < IE base * skabh , * skambh , to prop up > Sans… …   English World dictionary

  • shambles — I noun cataclysm, chaos, confusion, destruction, disorder, disorganization, disruption, havoc, holocaust, jumble, laniena, madhouse, maelstrom, mayhem, mess, pandemonium, scene of destruction, scene of disorder, state of violence, turmoil,… …   Law dictionary

  • shambles — (n.) late 15c., meat or fish market, from schamil table, stall for vending (c.1300), from O.E. scomul, sceamel stool, footstool, table for vending, an early West Germanic borrowing (Cf. O.S. skamel, M.Du. schamel, O.H.G. scamel, Ger. schemel)… …   Etymology dictionary

  • shambles — [n] a mess anarchy, babel, bedlam, botch, chaos, confusion, disarray, disorder, disorganization, hash, havoc, hodge podge, madhouse, maelstrom, mess up, mix up, muddle; concepts 230,674 Ant. order, organization …   New thesaurus

  • shambles — ► NOUN 1) informal a state of complete disorder. 2) archaic a butcher s slaughterhouse. ORIGIN originally in the sense «meat market»: plural of earlier shamble «stool, stall», from Latin scamellum little bench …   English terms dictionary

  • shambles — n. 1) to make a shambles of; to turn smt. into a shambles 2) in (a) shambles (their economy is in shambles) * * * [ ʃæmb(ə)lz] to turn smt. into a shambles to make a shambles of in (a) shambles (their economy is in shambles) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • shambles — sham|bles [ˈʃæmbəlz] n [Date: 1900 2000; Origin: shambles place where animals are killed for meat, scene of great killing or destruction (16 20 centuries), from shamble table from which meat is sold, meat market (14 19 centuries), from Old… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • shambles — noun informal a shambles a) an event or situation that is a complete failure because it has not been organized or planned properly: be (in) a shambles: By 1985 the economy was in a shambles. | make a shambles of sth: Potts, you made a complete… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • shambles — noun plural but singular or plural in construction Etymology: Middle English shameles, plural of schamel vendor s table, footstool, from Old English sceamol stool, from Latin scamillum, diminutive of scamnum stool, bench; perhaps akin to Sanskrit …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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