adverb1 : in mingled confusion or disorder 2 : in confused haste
After the final bell of the day rang, the pupils bolted from their desks and ran pell-mell out the door into the schoolyard.
“So Congress has been racing pell-mell this month to fix this crisis that’s been simmering for two decades. And what they’ve come up with is a Rube Goldberg contraption even by their usual convoluted standards.” — Danny Westneat, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Washington), July 18, 2014
Did you know?
The word pell-mell was probably formed through a process called reduplication. The process—which involves the repetition of a word or part of a word, often including a slight change in its pronunciation—also generated such terms as bowwow, helter-skelter, flip-flop, and chitchat. Yet another product of reduplication is shilly-shally, which started out as a single-word compression of the question “Shall I?” For pell-mell, the process is believed to have occurred long ago: our word traces to a Middle French word of the same meaning, pelemele, which was likely a product of reduplication from Old French mesle, a form of mesler, meaning “to mix.”