AskDefine | Define shambles

Dictionary Definition



1 a condition of great disorder
2 a building where animals are butchered [syn: abattoir, butchery, slaughterhouse]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. a scene of great disorder or ruin
  2. a great mess or clutter
    This website is a shambles.
  3. a scene of bloodshed, carnage or devastation
  4. a slaughterhouse
  5. a butcher's shop


a scene of great disorder or ruin
  • Hungarian: zűrzavar
a great mess or clutter
  • Hungarian: rendetlenség, összevisszaság
a scene of bloodshed, carnage or devastation
  • Hungarian: pusztulás, romhalmaz
a slaughterhouse
  • Hungarian: vágóhíd
(archaic) a butcher's shop
  • Hungarian: mészárszék


  1. third person singular of shamble

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

The Shambles (official name Shambles) is an old street in York, England, with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century. It was once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, probably from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (literally 'flesh-shelves'), the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. As recently as 1872, there were twenty-five butchers' shops in the street, but now there are none, although there is still a butcher in the adjacent Little Shambles which leads to York's open-air Newgate Market.
Among the buildings of the Shambles is a shrine to Saint Margaret Clitherow, who was married to a butcher who owned and lived in a shop there.
Although the butchers have now vanished, a number of the shops on the street still have meat-hooks hanging outside and, below them, shelves on which meat would have been displayed. The shops currently comprise a mixture of eateries and souvenir shops, but there is also a bookshop and a baker.
Five Snickelways lead off the Shambles.

Origin of name

"Shambles" is an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market. There are streets named "The Shambles" in some other UK towns (e.g., Worcester, Whitby, Sevenoaks, Chesterfield, Manchester and Armagh), which also got their names from having been the sites on which butchers killed and dressed animals for consumption. The Shambles in Stroud still has the hinged wooden boards attached to the shops, and hosts a regular local market.
During that period there were no sanitary facilities or hygiene laws as exist today, and guts, offal and blood were thrown into a runnel down the middle of the street or open space where the butchering was carried out. By extension, any scene of total disorganisation and mess is now referred to as "a shambles".


  • Yorkshire: York and the East Riding

External links

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Augean stables, Belsen, DMZ, abattoir, aceldama, battle line, battle site, battlefield, battleground, bloodbath, blue ruin, botch, botchery, breakup, butchering, butchery, carnage, chaos, combat area, combat zone, concentration camp, consumption, damnation, decimation, depredation, desolation, despoilment, despoliation, destruction, devastation, disaster, disintegration, disorganization, disruption, dissolution, enemy line, field, field of battle, field of blood, firing line, front line, gas chamber, hash, havoc, hecatomb, holocaust, killing ground, landing beach, line, line of battle, mess, mix-up, muddle, mull, muss, occision, perdition, pigpen, pigsty, ravage, ruin, ruination, seat of war, slaughter, slaughterhouse, slaughtering, spoliation, stockyard, the front, theater, theater of operations, theater of war, undoing, vandalism, waste, wrack, wrack and ruin, wreck, zone of communications
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