1. Causing gloom or depression; dreary: dismal weather; took a dismal view of the economy.
2. Characterized by ineptitude, dullness, or a lack of merit: a dismal book; a dismal performance on the cello.
3. Obsolete Dreadful; disastrous.
Chiefly South Atlantic US See pocosin.
[Middle English, unlucky days, unlucky, from Anglo-Norman, unlucky days, from Medieval Latin diēs malī : Latin diēs, pl. of diēs, day; see dyeu- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + Latin malī, pl. of malus, evil; see mel-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.