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For other uses, see Melee (disambiguation).
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.
A melee during mediaeval tournament.

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][2][3] Also historically a tournament involving two groups of combatants.[3]

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).[3]

In military aviation, a melee is described as "[a]n air battle in which several aircraft, both friend and foe, are confusingly intermingled".[1]

Lord Nelson described his tactics for the Battle of Trafalgar as inducing a "pell mell battle", or a melee between the fleets, which he was sure given the superiority of the Royal Navy would lead to a decisive victory.[2]

See also[edit]