- the dismal prison twilight
- —Charles Dickens
- a dismal performance
The show was a dismal failure.
The team's record is dismal.
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.
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.
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
black, bleak, cheerless, chill, cloudy, cold, comfortless, dark, darkening, depressing, depressive, desolate, dire, disconsolate, drear, dreary, elegiac (also elegiacal), forlorn, funereal, gloomy, glum, godforsaken, gray (also grey), lonely, lonesome, lugubrious, miserable, morbid, morose, murky, saturnine, sepulchral, solemn, somber (or sombre), sullen, sunless, wretched;
: showing or causing unhappiness or sad feelings : not warm, cheerful, etc.
: very bad or poor
What made you want to look up dismal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
without deliberation, pause, or delay
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