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Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Causing gloom or depression; dreary: dismal weather; took a dismal view of the economy.
  • adj. Characterized by ineptitude, dullness, or a lack of merit: a dismal book; a dismal performance on the cello.
  • adj. Obsolete Dreadful; disastrous.
  • n. Chiefly South Atlantic U.S. See pocosin. See Regional Note at pocosin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Disappointingly inadequate.
  • adj. Gloomy and bleak.
  • adj. Depressing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Fatal; ill-omened; unlucky.
  • adj. Gloomy to the eye or ear; sorrowful and depressing to the feelings; foreboding; cheerless; dull; dreary

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Gloomy; dreary; cheerless; melancholy; doleful; dolorous: originally, as an adjective, in the phrase dismal day or dismal days (see etymology), whence it was extended to any visible physical surroundings, or anything perceived or apprehended, tending to depress or chill the spirits.
  • n. See extract and etymology.
  • n. Gloom; melancholy; dumps: usually in the plural, in the phrase in the dismals.
  • n. plural Mourning-garments.
  • n. A name given in the southern Atlantic States, in the region bordering on the sea and sounds, and especially in North Carolina, to a tract of land, swampy in character, often covered by a considerable thickness of half-decayed wood and saturated with water.
  • n. The devil.
  • To feel dismal or melancholy.
  • n. plural The blues; the dumps; a state of gloominess or despondency: as, to be in the dismals.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. causing dejection

Etymologies

Middle English, unlucky days, unlucky, from Anglo-Norman, unlucky days, from Medieval Latin diēs malī : Latin diēs, pl. of diēs, day.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin diēs ("day") and malus ("bad") ("bad day"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Isabelle leaned against the doorjamb, her expression dismal.

    City of Glass

  • We covered my prediction for Saturday (Obama!) the governor's endorsement, the then-forthcoming KeyArena rally, and the state of the Republican Party in Washington (which I described as dismal).

    Archive 2008-02-01

  • Fleming, who was a member of the ANC's Pretoria Central branch, said he had left the ANC because of what he termed a dismal lack of democracy in party structures.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • He studied what they call a dismal science, economics, at Yale.

    George Bush: An Intimate Portrait

  • He added that the figure for 2009 which he described as a dismal year was a far cry from the

    IOL: News

  • Lagos - Following what it described as a dismal outing of the Bauchi State contingent to the recent 16th National Sports Festival, KADA 2009, Bauchi State Council of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) has called on the state government to as a matter of necessity probe the activities of the sports administrators to ascertain what went wrong for such a poor result despite the huge resources expended by the state government.

    AllAfrica News: Latest

  • ILOILO CITY, Philippines-Environmental groups lamented what they called the dismal end of the global summit on Copenhagen and issued a challenge to the ...

    WN.com - Business News

  • Byline: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Environmental groups lamented what they called the dismal end of the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen and issued a challenge to the P.ilippines.

    Climate Ark Climate Change & Global Warming RSS Newsfeed

  • July 22nd, 2009 11: 30 pm ET too bad, this needed to be done, it has now been moved to committee another attempt ends in dismal failure

    Obama mentions agreement for experts' panel to study Medicare waste

  • Yet, when a major union in dismal economic times makes the decision to moderate wage demands in favour of other improvements, there is the Citizen on the attack once again, this time effectively accusing the union of "capitulation."

    Archive 2009-01-01

Comments

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  • Dismal is used a lot by Lewis Carroll in Hunting of the Snark and Alice Through the looking glass. I recognized it right away. Just though it was something worth mentioning.

    September 18, 2007