Definition of dismal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɪzm(ə)l/


1Causing a mood of gloom or depression: the dismal weather made the late afternoon seem like evening
More example sentences
  • And mine is the world of the rented room, where damp creeps in in the dismal gloom and music is the only thing I own.
  • As glorious Tramore yet again defied the dismal weather forecasts the fans flocked to the seaside venue.
  • One idea is pushing election day back into October, to spare voters going to the polls in dismal weather.
dingy, dim, dark, gloomy, sombre, dreary, drab, dull, desolate, bleak, cheerless, comfortless, depressing, grim, funereal, inhospitable, uninviting, unwelcoming
1.1(Of a person or their mood) gloomy: his dismal mood was not dispelled by finding the house empty
More example sentences
  • Her reassuring smile did little to reassure her dismal friends.
  • After the past 10 days in the spotlight, internal morale for the 200 STB staff is dismal.
  • If these really are the views of those around him, one fears he must run with a rather dismal crowd.
gloomy, glum, mournful, melancholy, morose, doleful, woeful, woebegone, forlorn, abject, dejected, depressed, dispirited, downcast, crestfallen, despondent, disconsolate, miserable, sad, unhappy, sorrowful, sorrowing, desolate, wretched, lugubrious
informal blue, fed up, down in the dumps, down in the mouth, as sick as a parrot
literary dolorous
archaic chap-fallen
1.2 informal Pitifully or disgracefully bad: he shuddered as he watched his team’s dismal performance
More example sentences
  • The play is a history of his romantic failures, with amorous adventures ranging from the comic to the pitiful but always dismal failures.
  • This self-centredness bothered some of his followers, who quit after the party's dismal electoral performance.
  • By that measure, too, Australia's recent performance looks dismal.
bad, poor, dreadful, awful, terrible, pitiful, disgraceful, lamentable, deplorable;
inferior, mediocre, unsatisfactory, inadequate, second-rate, third-rate, shoddy, inept, bungling
informal crummy, dire, diabolical, bum, rotten, pathetic, lousy, poxy
British informal duff, rubbish, ropy, chronic, pants, a load of pants
vulgar slang crap, crappy, shitty
North American vulgar slang chickenshit
archaic direful
rare egregious



the dismals

archaic, informal Low spirits: a fit of the dismals
More example sentences
  • Sunny Steve cut through the dismals
  • A Sunday lunch with roast chicken, roast potatoes, steamed vegetables and gravy is one of those classic English meals that can soar into the culinary sublime or dive into the dismals.

the dismal science

humorous Economics.
Example sentences
  • Is it any wonder economics is called the dismal science?
  • Smith did not just found the dismal science (economics); he also helped to pioneer the sentimental science (the psychology of emotion).
  • It is not surprising, given this picture, that economics became known as the dismal science, since the only equilibrium situation was one of subsistence wages.



Pronunciation: /ˈdɪzm(ə)lnəs/
Example sentences
  • At present the day was drizzling and chilly, while the huge volumes of smoke from a whole forest of factory chimneys tended to impart a deeper shade of dismalness to the dispiriting landscape.
  • When confronted with an empty tomb in our lives, do we look at the hopefulness of the situation or do we look at the dismalness of the situation?
  • To wait fruitfully is not to dream away the now, to brood about its dismalness, to protest its unacceptability, all the hallmarks of being bored.


Late Middle English: from earlier dismal (noun), denoting the two days in each month which in medieval times were believed to be unlucky, from Anglo-Norman French dis mal, from medieval Latin dies mali 'evil days'.

  • This word originally referred to 24 days, two in each month, that medieval people believed to be unlucky. The name derives from Latin dies mali ‘evil days’, and first appeared in English in the early Middle Ages as the dismal. This was quickly spelled out more clearly as the dismal days. Soon dismal days could be any time of disaster, gloom, or depression, or the time of old age. In 1849 the Scottish historian and political philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) nicknamed the difficult subject of economics (then known as ‘political economy’) the dismal science.

Words that rhyme with dismal

abysmal, baptismal, catechismal, paroxysmal

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dis¦mal

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