History of the MESS


It's where you go to eat and comes from the Old French 'mes' meaning a portion of food.
Two of the relevant Collins English Dictionary definitions are:

4 Archaic a portion of food, especially soft or semiliquid food;

5 a place where service personnel eat or take recreation.

From this it seems that no. 4 might have turned into no. 5 over time.
Now I had heard that the Hindi word for cutlery was Mess (or something that sounds like it) and it morphed from this meaning to a group of people eating togther...
bluebells said:
Try http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-mes1.htm.
It suggests that the word mess means a group of people who regularly eat together. I know that the first officer’s mess was in Woolwich and began life as a luncheon club.
The first Military Academy was in Woolwich - long before Sandhurst and Mons. The Academy was set up in the 18th century to teach maths and science to Gunners and Sappers. The Gunners set up their guns on Woolwich Common and fired over Shooters Hill into what is now Bexleyheath(?) and soldiers posted on Shooters Hill relayed fall of shot information back to the guns (if you don't hear from us, you are firing short.....) via a system of flags. I feel a verse of the "Screw Gun" coming on.....

Messes existed a long time before that. But I suggest they weren't permanent in the way that we think of Messes. Having said that, the original units of Cromwell's Model Army in the late 1600s must have been quartered somewhere and there was certainly a distinction between enlisted men, senior ranks and officers by then.


For we all love the screw guns,
And the screw guns, they all love us,
And when ........ memory failure at 00x0000120000h
Even Xenophon, writing of the Spartans military regime in the 4th century BC, uses the term "mess" so presumably it has a Greek root, from "mezze" perhaps? :?
The Bible talks of a 'mess of potage'. Mess meant meal, so when the officers were eating they were 'at mess'.
The Germans use the word "messe" for a Mass, a trade fair or gathering - but not a mess. There's obviously a connection there with the various words meaning a meeting or gathering of some sort.
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