dismal

adjective dis·mal \ ˈdiz-məl \
Updated on: 17 Nov 2017

Definition of dismal

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

dismally

play \-mə-lē\ adverb

dismalness

noun

Examples of dismal in a Sentence

  1. The show was a dismal failure.

  2. The team's record is dismal.

Recent Examples of dismal from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of dismal

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

DISMAL Defined for English Language Learners

dismal

adjective

Definition of dismal for English Language Learners

  • : showing or causing unhappiness or sad feelings : not warm, cheerful, etc.

  • : very bad or poor


DISMAL Defined for Kids

dismal

adjective dis·mal \ ˈdiz-məl \

Definition of dismal for Students

:very gloomy
  • dismal weather


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