dismal

adjective
dis·​mal | \ ˈdiz-məl How to pronounce dismal (audio) \

Definition of dismal

1 : showing or causing gloom (see gloom entry 2 sense 2) or depression the dismal prison twilight— Charles Dickens
2 : lacking merit : particularly bad a dismal performance
3 obsolete : disastrous, dreadful

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Other Words from dismal

dismally \ ˈdiz-​mə-​lē How to pronounce dismally (audio) \ adverb
dismalness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for dismal

dismal, dreary, bleak, gloomy, cheerless, desolate mean devoid of cheer or comfort. dismal indicates extreme and utterly depressing gloominess. dismal weather dreary, often interchangeable with dismal, emphasizes discouragement resulting from sustained dullness or futility. a dreary job bleak suggests chill, dull, and barren characteristics that utterly dishearten. the bleak years of the depression gloomy often suggests lack of hope or promise. gloomy war news cheerless stresses absence of anything cheering. a drab and cheerless office desolate adds an element of utter remoteness or lack of human contact to any already disheartening aspect. a desolate outpost

The Evil History of Dismal

In late antiquity, certain days each month, called “Egyptian days,” were regarded as inauspicious, probably as a relic of ancient Egyptian belief. By the Middle Ages, people took them to be anniversaries of the Biblical plagues in Egypt. There were 24 such days per year, and in Anglo-French they were called collectively dismal (from Latin dies mali, “evil days”), and this word was borrowed into Middle English. In time the “evil days” sense was forgotten and dismal was simply taken to mean “disastrous.” The noun dismal, meaning “swamp,” goes back to the 1700s when the marshy region in Virginia and North Carolina was named the Great Dismal Swamp.

Examples of dismal in a Sentence

The show was a dismal failure. The team's record is dismal.
Recent Examples on the Web Biden, on the other hand, got a temporary reprieve from having to explain a dismal finish. Susan Page, USA TODAY, "Iowa voters send a message: Risky over safe," 4 Feb. 2020 And a dismal 4-8 record in 2013 was followed up by a 12-1 record and a Peach Bowl win in 2014. Dallas News, "3 reasons why TCU could be better in 2020, including a one-two punch at linebacker," 8 Jan. 2020 The Spartans managed a dismal 7-14 SU record in their first 21 bowl appearances from 1937-2010. Joe Williams, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest odds, picks and best bets," 25 Dec. 2019 Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation notes that U.S. labor productivity has been increasing at a dismal rate of 1.2 percent per year since 2008, half the rate of the preceding 13 years. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman," 18 Oct. 2019 The state has steadily improved the program’s reach in recent years, up from a dismal 51 percent participation rate in 2010. Jackie Botts, The Mercury News, "California’s struggle to get food stamps to the hungry," 19 July 2019 Minneapolis:Two prominent leaders have proposed an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution aimed at closing the state’s dismal academic achievement gap. USA TODAY, "Gray whale tows calf, wolves on the move, John Dillinger won’t be exhumed; News from around our 50 states," 11 Jan. 2020 Familiar statistics on these dismal trends take on fresh urgency when juxtaposed with photos of Kristof’s schoolmates who are now homeless or dead. Sarah Smarsh, New York Times, "Chronicling a Community, and a Country, in Economic Crisis," 10 Jan. 2020 This will be painful in the short run, but such courage will avoid a dismal future the party faces. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: RTD service issues unacceptable; Caldara’s Christmas gift advice is locked and loaded (12/29/19)," 29 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dismal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dismal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for dismal

Middle English, from dismal, noun, days marked as unlucky in medieval calendars, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin dies mali, literally, evil days

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Time Traveler for dismal

Time Traveler

The first known use of dismal was in the 15th century

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Statistics for dismal

Last Updated

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dismal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dismal. Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for dismal

dismal

adjective
How to pronounce dismal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dismal

: showing or causing unhappiness or sad feelings : not warm, cheerful, etc.
: very bad or poor

dismal

adjective
dis·​mal | \ ˈdiz-məl How to pronounce dismal (audio) \

Kids Definition of dismal

: very gloomy dismal weather

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More from Merriam-Webster on dismal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dismal

Spanish Central: Translation of dismal

Nglish: Translation of dismal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dismal for Arabic Speakers

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