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dis·​may dis-ˈmā How to pronounce dismay (audio)
dismayed; dismaying

transitive verb

: to cause to lose courage or resolution (as because of alarm or fear)
must not let ourselves be dismayed by the task before us
: upset, perturb
were dismayed by the condition of the building


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: sudden loss of courage or resolution from alarm or fear
watched with dismay as flames engulfed their home
: sudden disappointment
announced her retirement, much to the dismay of her fans
: perturbation sense 1
expressed dismay at his strange behavior
Choose the Right Synonym for dismay

dismay, appall, horrify, daunt mean to unnerve or deter by arousing fear, apprehension, or aversion.

dismay implies that one is disconcerted and at a loss as to how to deal with something.

dismayed at the size of the job

appall implies that one is faced with that which perturbs, confounds, or shocks.

I am appalled by your behavior

horrify stresses a reaction of horror or revulsion.

was horrified by such wanton cruelty

daunt suggests a cowing, disheartening, or frightening in a venture requiring courage.

a cliff that would daunt the most intrepid climber

Examples of dismay in a Sentence

Verb Her choice of career dismays her parents. the imposing climb up the mountain dismayed us even before we got started Noun His comments were met with cries of dismay. They watched in dismay as the house burned. Much to the dismay of her fans, she announced her retirement immediately after the book's release. To my dismay, I did not get chosen for the job. We listened with dismay to the news of the accident.
Recent Examples on the Web
Milwaukee council member dismayed at ballot error The importance of each vote in local races is not lost on Ald. Journal Sentinel, 21 Mar. 2024 The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window Getting dismayed about the depressing state of the world and the apparent failure of electoral politics to create meaningful change? Christian Holub, EW.com, 14 Dec. 2023 See all Example Sentences for dismay 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dismay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French desmaier, from des- dis- + -maier, from Vulgar Latin *-magare, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German magan to be able — more at may entry 1

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dismay was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near dismay

Cite this Entry

“Dismay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dismay. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
dis·​may dis-ˈmā How to pronounce dismay (audio)
: to cause to lose courage or to feel concern : daunt
dismayed by their opponent's size
: upset entry 1 sense 2a, perturb
dismayed by the poor turnout
dismayingly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: loss of courage or determination from alarm or fear
: a feeling of alarm or disappointment

More from Merriam-Webster on dismay

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