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For other uses, see Melee (disambiguation).
Naval melee at the Battle of Sluys 1340 (BNF Fr. 2643, 15th century)
A melee in SCA armoured combat.

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

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

International relations analyst John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt have described "melee" as the first stage in a four-part development of the military doctrine of "swarming". They describe the melee as the form of fighting requiring the least amount of organization and planning beforehand due to its chaotic, "free-for-all" nature. "Melee" as defined by Arquila and Ronfeldt is tied to a larger four-part framework with "melee" tied to the organizational form defined as "tribe".[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Melee. (2004). In B. Kumar , D. De Remer , & D. Marshall (Eds.), An illustrated dictionary of Aviation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from
  2. ^ Arquilla, John; Ronfeldt, David (January 2000). SWARMING & The Future of Conflict (PDF) (Report). RAND Corporation/National Defense Research Institute. DTIC Subject Categories: Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics. Retrieved 6 April 2015.