Hot Mess – Meaning & Definition

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

In a world full of mess, be a hot mess. But what does hot mess mean? Would you believe that this phrase originated in the kitchen?

Hot mess describes anything or anyone messy, whether it’s an event, person, product, or movie. Let’s investigate the meaning and origin of hot mess. I also share some examples of how to use this idiom in a sentence.

Hot Mess Meaning

Grammarist Article Graphic V4 2023 01 04T233738.334

A hot mess is a noun phrase that names an object or person in complete disarray or is emotionally or mentally unbalanced. When someone is in a chaotic situation, you can describe that person as a hot mess. Basically, it’s a term for a disordered person or disorganized person, no matter how much they might try not to be. 

We may consider hot mess an idiom because we are not using its literal meaning. The chaos is not necessarily at a high temperature.

Where Does the Slang Hot Mess Come From?

Hot Mess Ngram
Hot mess usage trend.

Hot mess was first used in culinary, which means a hot and gloopy meal. The mess in the phrase refers to a mess hall or canteen. Think of the hot mess you’ve had in your school cafeteria.

From there, hot mess started to mean a messy situation. It became famous in the American South at the beginning of the twentieth century to mean being in trouble.

The massive shift in definition may also be caused by the American comedy, Arrested Development.

Christian Siriano, a contestant in the American reality show Project Runway also popularized the phrase hot mess. He used it to describe an unfashionable, shabby, and messy person.

Hot Mess also became the album title of the pop band Cobra Starship. It brought the sexy meaning of hot in hot mess. The title track shows a woman living unhealthily by partying but still looking sexy.

Hot Mess in a Sentence

Here are some examples that show the use of hot mess in a sentence.

  • I would be one of the least [likely] people I know who I’d describe as a hot mess, but I certainly was during this. (BBC)
  • Thus, you are comparing a negatively biased view of yourself with a carefully curated portrait of others, which can understandably lead you to conclude that you are indeed a hot mess. (The Atlantic)
  • Like a lot of people, I’m not on board with butter boards, so I’m dubious about this hot mess from the outset. (Today)
  • A 110-pound dog with countless bad habits is winning hearts on social media, after a North Carolina shelter hilariously begged: “Someone adopt this hot mess” in a Facebook post. (McDowell News)
  • Peru has ordered the Mexican ambassador to leave the country after Mexico City granted asylum to the family of leftist President Pedro Castillo, who was recently arrested for trying to dissolve Congress and stage a coup. Simply put: Peru is a hot mess. (Gzero Media)

Hot Mess Summary

The use of hot mess as someone who looks sexy while in complete disarray only became popular last decade. But its original meaning is culinary-related, which is a hot meal. Today, we use hot mess as an idiom to refer to anyone or anything chaotic.