dismal

adjective
dis·​mal | \ ˈdiz-məl \

Definition of dismal

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

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Other Words from dismal

dismally \ -​mə-​lē \ 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

So 2018 offered reasons for optimism — but the promising developments took place against a dismal backdrop. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "2018’s big wins — and big losses — for animals," 24 Dec. 2018 For, one, Trump’s job approval rating in the Gallup survey is 45 percent, eight points higher than the dismal 37 percent where George W. Bush was sitting at this point in 2006. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Under Trump, Americans are becoming more supportive of immigration," 22 June 2018 Perhaps discussions of raising Congressional pay to cover increased housing costs is a non-starter, especially with the dismal public approval ratings for Congress. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a point about housing for Congress," 21 Nov. 2018 His fiscal prudence is questionable in view of his dismal vote ratings from pro-growth groups and the spending and deficit record of the Democratic Party during his 15 years in the House. WSJ, "Democrats’ Stealthy Push for Open Borders," 20 Nov. 2018 That humbling defeat by Denmark doesn't look like a freak result now, after Poland's dismal losses against Senegal (1-2) and Colombia (0-3) in their first two World Cup matches in Russia. SI.com, "World Cup Preview: Japan vs Poland - Recent Form, Team News, Predicted Lineups & More," 27 June 2018 Among the general public, McConnell had a dismal 16 percent job approval rating. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "How the Republican Party Eats Itself, But Stays Alive," 8 May 2018 Hollande, the only incumbent in modern French history not to seek reëlection, left office with dismal approval ratings. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "François Hollande Braves the Amazon Comments Section," 30 Apr. 2018 Trump gets a dismal rating: Just 25% have a favorable view of the president; 60% have an unfavorable one. Susan Page And Marilyn Icsman, USA TODAY, "5 things to know about the post-Millennial generation, or whatever you call them," 22 Mar. 2018

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 1

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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Statistics for dismal

Last Updated

15 Feb 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 \

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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