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 dismal (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 This past year was dismal, with only two of these strong events occurring in Southern California. Allison Chinchar, CNN, 14 Oct. 2021 Chinook salmon returns were dismal virtually everywhere in Alaska this year, from Southeast to the Bering Sea, with few exceptions. Elizabeth Earl For Alaska Journal Of Commerce, Anchorage Daily News, 14 Oct. 2021 A year ago, the mood was dismal even after the Tribe had made the 2020 playoffs. Terry Pluto, cleveland, 10 Oct. 2021 Moose hunting in the upper parts of Unit 13 has been dismal this season. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Sep. 2021 China’s box office has been dismal all summer and the slump continued this week with, once again, only five films that made over $1 million. Rebecca Davis, Variety, 12 Sep. 2021 Fifth grade performance was particularly dismal, with passing scores sinking from 71% to 28% in math and 67% to 47% in language arts. Scott Travis, sun-sentinel.com, 7 Sep. 2021 For women of color, those numbers are even more dismal. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, 9 Aug. 2021 The representation of women in India’s police force is dismal. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 12 Aug. 2021

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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Time Traveler for dismal

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

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Dictionary Entries Near dismal

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Last Updated

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dismal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dismal. Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on dismal

Nglish: Translation of dismal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dismal for Arabic Speakers

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