Definition of dismal in English:



  • 1Causing a mood of gloom or depression.

    ‘the dismal weather made the late afternoon seem like evening’
    • ‘A polar jet stream appears to be the cause of the dismal weather, say the experts.’
    • ‘Muddy lanes surround dismal tin shacks and there is an aura of despondency and despair, which even the myriads of children do little to dispel.’
    • ‘In achieving this aim, the frequently dismal weather helps immeasurably.’
    • ‘Little wavelets came up around his feet, oily and silent in this dismal weather.’
    • ‘She'd been walking so long she barely noticed the cold and damp, the sticking mud and the dismal weather.’
    • ‘It's a grey day but this place feels as if it would be dismal regardless of the weather.’
    • ‘Last year I grew a dark red variety which was really striking, thriving on neglect despite the dismal weather.’
    • ‘The weather's dismal and the light grey and the landscape reminds you of everything that's hellish about the country.’
    • ‘It's a chance for cultural liberation, to escape the dismal oppression of autocratic bullies.’
    • ‘One idea is pushing election day back into October, to spare voters going to the polls in dismal weather.’
    • ‘As glorious Tramore yet again defied the dismal weather forecasts the fans flocked to the seaside venue.’
    • ‘No one's mood was helped by the dismal weather outdoors, the sky was grey and the wind was blasting.’
    • ‘Suddenly, the onslaught of dismal economic news seems to be weighing heavily on the president and his party.’
    • ‘He finally appeared from the depths of the dismal room dressed in his usual black turtleneck and blue jeans.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘That afternoon the weather was overcast and somewhat dismal, with light snow falling almost continually.’
    • ‘Ali led me up a narrow path way lined with trees and brush, to a small cabin that looked desolated and dismal.’
    • ‘The dismal weather for much of the week was no help and there were times when Tralee Racecourse was a drab place to be.’
    • ‘They looked like a ray of light in that dismal room.’
    • ‘The dismal picture that emerges is indeed depressing, and sometimes infuriating.’
    dingy, dim, dark, gloomy, sombre, dreary, drab, dull, desolate, bleak, cheerless, comfortless, depressing, grim, funereal, inhospitable, uninviting, unwelcoming
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    1. 1.1 (of a person or their mood) gloomy.
      ‘his dismal mood was not dispelled by finding the house empty’
      • ‘On a fatal journey back to England a storm rocked his ship and as the crew and dismal captain bailed water from the ship, an amazing thing happened for John.’
      • ‘Remember the light that shone from me long ago if I am too dismal now, but remember me.’
      • ‘Gail marched after the man enthusiastically, followed by a rather nervous Emy, a dismal Mary, and a grinning Nora.’
      • ‘Dull, dismal and discarded, he wallows in misery and loathing.’
      • ‘If these really are the views of those around him, one fears he must run with a rather dismal crowd.’
      • ‘It's at this point that we come to the dismal apprehension of why attention waned in the first place.’
      • ‘Her reassuring smile did little to reassure her dismal friends.’
      • ‘I laughed despite my dismal mood and felt better than I had all night.’
      • ‘I toyed again with my gin, not quite certain why my mood was such hopeless, dismal despair.’
      • ‘They were indeed friendly; however, their disposition was dark and dismal.’
      • ‘It sent a chilling message of cold and dismal feelings through my body; I didn't want to hold on any more, so I gently removed my fingers from the window.’
      • ‘In the morning as the dismal crowds drained from their former residences into the Mission Square the old man died.’
      • ‘However, one staff member told the Western People that although the mood is dismal at the plant, the staff realise that it is not just them who will lose out.’
      • ‘For some reason, any childhood memory in this city has always been bleak and dismal at best.’
      • ‘I had a hard time being in a dismal mood when Riley was with me.’
      • ‘After the past 10 days in the spotlight, internal morale for the 200 STB staff is dismal.’
      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
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    2. 1.2informal Pitifully or disgracefully bad.
      ‘he shuddered as he watched his team's dismal performance’
      • ‘These dismal figures don't include the entitlement reforms proposed by the President.’
      • ‘The club partly blamed crashing out of Europe to Feyenoord, which went on to win the UEFA Cup, for the dismal figures.’
      • ‘Failing to do so imperils his chances by giving us nothing to be excited about, much less to work for and a likely dismal voter turnout.’
      • ‘We were dismal in the Hong Kong history round, but did satisfactorily in current events.’
      • ‘By that measure, too, Australia's recent performance looks dismal.’
      • ‘The play is a history of his romantic failures, with amorous adventures ranging from the comic to the pitiful but always dismal failures.’
      • ‘The league's nonconference winning percentage was worse than last season's dismal figure.’
      • ‘Our effort to tame nature so that the temperature is always comfortable has been a dismal failure.’
      • ‘We see this as nothing but the most dismal of choices and are saddened to see the determined few who want to create the ruination of many.’
      • ‘These are dismal figures, forcing the people of Taiwan to face the cruel reality of an economic winter.’
      • ‘There is no magic formula to reduce these dismal figures.’
      • ‘This year's campaign will follow the dismal showing of 2004 where the event didn't even get off the ground because of a lack of interest.’
      • ‘But this is the limit of the good news to be dredged from a dismal couple of days in Brussels.’
      • ‘This self-centredness bothered some of his followers, who quit after the party's dismal electoral performance.’
      • ‘America and Japan also had fairly strong growth, although Western Europe had a more dismal performance.’
      • ‘First, I managed to get up at 4am, even after a really dismal night's sleep.’
      • ‘It was a dismal performance and another man might have been broken by it.’
      • ‘The mishap with the bus did not help but it cannot be blamed totally for this dismal performance.’
      • ‘I can tell you, I was in a very poor mood for quite a while due to the dismal turnout.’
      • ‘The coaches must get the offense in a productive mode after last season's dismal performance.’
      bad, poor, dreadful, awful, terrible, pitiful, disgraceful, lamentable, deplorable
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  • the dismals

    • archaic, informal Low spirits.

      ‘a fit of the dismals’
      • ‘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.

      • ‘Smith did not just found the dismal science (economics); he also helped to pioneer the sentimental science (the psychology of emotion).’
      • ‘Is it any wonder economics is called the dismal science?’
      • ‘This is one of the dismal things about the dismal science of economics.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Well, she obviously doesn't believe that economics is the dismal science.’


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’.