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verb (used with object)
  1. to break down the courage of completely, as by sudden danger or trouble; dishearten thoroughly; daunt: The surprise attack dismayed the enemy.
  2. to surprise in such a manner as to disillusion: She was dismayed to learn of their disloyalty.
  3. to alarm; perturb: The new law dismayed some of the more conservative politicians.
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  1. sudden or complete loss of courage; utter disheartenment.
  2. sudden disillusionment.
  3. agitation of mind; perturbation; alarm.
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Origin of dismay

1275–1325; Middle English desmay (noun), de(s)mayen, dismayen (v.) < presumed AF alteration, by prefix change, of Old French esmaier to trouble, frighten < Vulgar Latin *exmagāre to disable, deprive of strength, equivalent to ex- ex-1 + *magāre < Germanic *magan to be able to; see may1
Related formsdis·mayed·ness [dis-meyd-nis, -mey-id-] /dɪsˈmeɪd nɪs, -ˈmeɪ ɪd-/, noundis·may·ing·ly, adverbun·dis·mayed, adjective


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1. appall, terrify, frighten, scare, intimidate, disconcert. See discourage. 4. consternation, terror, panic, horror, fear.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for dismay

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The other canon shook his head in dismay at such arrant folly.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • They are barren, till the imagination has tenanted them with possibilities of danger and dismay.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • Harriett had a little shock of dismay and resentment, hating change.

  • Sidney examined with some dismay the elaborate negligee garments in her hand.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • He took chances and got away with them, laughing at the girl's gasps of dismay.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for dismay


verb (tr)
  1. to fill with apprehension or alarm
  2. to fill with depression or discouragement
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  1. consternation or agitation
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Derived Formsdismaying, adjective

Word Origin

C13: from Old French desmaiier (unattested), from des- dis- 1 + esmayer to frighten, ultimately of Germanic origin; see may 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dismay


late 13c., dismaien, from Old French *desmaier (attested only in past participle dismaye), from Latin de- intensive prefix + Old French esmaier "to trouble, disturb," from Vulgar Latin *exmagare "divest of power or ability" (source of Italian smagare "to weaken, dismay, discourage"), from ex- (see ex-) + Germanic stem *mag- "power, ability" (cf. Old High German magen "to be powerful or able;" see may (v.)). Spanish desmayer "to be dispirited" is a loan word from Old French. Related: Dismayed; dismaying.

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c.1300, from dismay (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper