- \ \  Etymologically, dismal means ‘bad day’. It comes, via Anglo-Norman dis mal, from Latin diēs malī, literally ‘evil days’, a term used to denote the two days in each month which according to ancient superstition were supposed to be unlucky (these days, of set date, were said originally to have been computed by Egyptian astrologers, and were hence also called Egyptian days). The term dismal thus acquired connotations of ‘gloom’ and ‘calamity’. Its earliest adjectival use, somewhat tautologically, was in the phrase dismal day, but in the late 16th century it broadened out considerably in application.
Word origins - 2ed. J. Ayto. 2005.
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Dismal — Dis mal, a. [Formerly a noun; e. g., I trow it was in the dismalle. Chaucer. Of uncertain origin; but perh. (as suggested by Skeat) from OF. disme, F. d[^i]me, tithe, the phrase dismal day properly meaning, the day when tithes must be paid. See… … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
dismal — dismal, dreary, cheerless, dispiriting, bleak, desolate are comparable when they mean devoid of all that makes for cheer or comfort. Dismal and dreary are often interchangeable. Dismal may indicate extreme gloominess or somberness utterly… … New Dictionary of Synonyms
dismal — UK US /ˈdɪzməl/ adjective ► very bad: »In January, after a dismal holiday sales season, the retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. dismal picture/news/outlook »Another damper on investment is the dismal picture for corporate profits … Financial and business terms
dismal — c.1400, from Anglo Fr. dismal (mid 13c.), from O.Fr. (li) dis mals (the) bad days, from M.L. dies mali evil or unlucky days (also called dies Ægyptiaci), from L. dies days (see DIURNAL (Cf. diurnal)) + mali, pl. of malus bad (see MAL … Etymology dictionary
dismal — I adjective black, bleak, cheerless, cloudy, comfortless, dark, deplorable, depressing, despairing, despondent, dim, dingy, dire, disagreeable, disconsolate, dreary, dull, dusky, flat, foggy, gloomy, gray, joyless, lamentable, lifeless, lowering … Law dictionary
dismal — [adj] bleak, dreary, gloomy afflictive, black, boring, cheerless, cloudy, dark, depressed, depressing, desolate, despondent, dim, dingy, disagreeable, discouraging, disheartening, dispiriting, doleful, dolorous, dull, forlorn, frowning, funereal … New thesaurus
dismal — ► ADJECTIVE 1) causing or showing gloom or depression. 2) informal pitifully or disgracefully bad. DERIVATIVES dismally adverb. ORIGIN from obsolete dismals, the two days in each month which in medieval times were believed to be unlucky, from Old … English terms dictionary
dismal — [diz′məl] adj. [ME, orig. n., evil days (of the medieval calendar) < OFr dis mal < ML dies mali, evil days: see DEITY & MAL ] 1. causing gloom or misery; depressing 2. dark and gloomy; bleak; dreary 3. depressed; miserable dismally adv … English World dictionary
dismal — [[t]dɪ̱zm(ə)l[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED Something that is dismal is bad in a sad or depressing way. ...Israel s dismal record in the Olympics... My prospects of returning to a suitable job are dismal... It was a dismal failure. Syn: terrible Derived… … English dictionary
dismal — adjective Etymology: Middle English, from dismal, noun, days marked as unlucky in medieval calendars, from Anglo French, from Medieval Latin dies mali, literally, evil days Date: 15th century 1. obsolete disastrous, dreadful 2 … New Collegiate Dictionary
dismal — adjective 1 a dismal place, situation, thought etc has nothing pleasant in it and makes it difficult for you to feel happy and hopeful: The future looks pretty dismal right now. | a dismal, grey November afternoon 2 bad and unsuccessful: Your… … Longman dictionary of contemporary English