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Naval melee at the Battle of Sluys 1340 (BNF Fr. 2643, 15th century)
Battle of Lützen by Carl Wahlbom depicting a melee in which King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was killed on 16 November 1632.

Melee (/ˈml/ or /ˈmɛl/, French: mêlée [mɛle]; the French spelling is also quite frequent in English writing), generally refers to disorganized close combat in battles fought at abnormally close range with little central control once it starts.[1]

The French term was first used in English in c. 1640 (a re-borrowing of a lost Middle English melle,[citation needed] but the Old French borrowing survives in medley and meddle).[1]

In military aviation, a melee has been described as "[a]n air battle in which several aircraft, both friend and foe, are confusingly intermingled".[2]

Lord Nelson described his tactics for the Battle of Trafalgar as inducing a "pell mell battle" focused on engagements between individual ships where the superior morale and skill of the Royal Navy would prevail.[3][relevant? ]

See also



  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory (2005), Trafalgar 1805: Nelson's Crowning Victory, Osprey Publishing, p. 38 38, ISBN 978-1-84176-892-2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kumar, Bharat; DeRemer, Dale; Marshall, Douglas (2004), An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation, McGraw Hill Professional, p. 462, ISBN 978-0-07-178260-9<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "mêlée n.", Oxford English Dictionary (online ed.), Oxford University Press, March 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>