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

Eastern Germany, of course, is not the only region in Europe that’s suffering from such dismal demographics. Leonid Bershidsky, Twin Cities, "Leonid Bershidsky: Depopulation Is Eastern Germany’s curse," 18 June 2019 Sudan’s dismal economic conditions, exasperated by government cuts to food and fuel subsidies, became a triggering event that ignited protests that spread to the capital, Khartoum. Fox News, "Sudan military admits security forces committed 'violations' after protests turned deadly," 15 June 2019 China fared the worst, with a 13 percentage-point drop in the period, bringing employee engagement down to a dismal 6%. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Most Indian employees aren’t fully engaged at work, still they are better than anyone else," 14 June 2019 Despite the dismal state of the public debate on net neutrality, there is actually some hope for a bipartisan solution. Jeremy Carl, National Review, "Debating Net Neutrality: Big-Tech Monopolies Are the Real Problem," 11 June 2019 At the same time almost to the minute, the Des Moines Register was releasing its Iowa Poll of likely caucus-goers that showed O’Rourke—once a darling of the political handicappers—with dismal 2-percent support. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Beto’s Bet on Iowa," 9 June 2019 The school eventually selected Locksley, a former Terrapins coordinator who was thriving on the Alabama coaching staff after a dismal run as head coach at New Mexico. Matt Murschel, orlandosentinel.com, "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 77 Maryland trusts Mike Locksley to revamp program," 9 June 2019 In the early 1990s, a television talk show host with a carbon-copy Phil Donahue style but dismal ratings was walking with his producer down Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Kyle Swenson, chicagotribune.com, "Jerry Springer changed TV forever. After 27 seasons, his daytime talk circus may be over.," 20 June 2018 Indeed, the funding statistics for women are dismal; according to statistics from 2018, female-founded companies garnered just 2.2 percent of VC investment last year. Jenna Birch, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Secret Code to Success Most Women Don't Even Know Exists," 3 Apr. 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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Last Updated

21 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for dismal

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

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More Definitions for dismal

dismal

adjective

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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