From Middle English dismayen, from Anglo-Norman *desmaiier, alteration of Old French esmaier (“to frighten”), probably from Vulgar Latin *exmagare (“to deprive (someone) of strength, to disable”), from ex- + *magare (“to enable, empower”), from Proto-Germanic *maginą, *maganą (“might, power”), from Proto-Indo-European *megʰ- (“to be able”).
Akin to Old High German magan, megin (“power, might, main”), Old English mæġen (“might, main”), Old High German magan, mugan (“to be powerful, able”), Old English magan (“to be able”). Cognate with Portuguese desmaiar (“to faint”). See also Portuguese esmagar, Spanish amagar. More at main, may.
- To cause to feel apprehension; great sadness, or fear; to deprive of energy
- 1600, [Torquato Tasso], “(please specify |book=1 to 20)”, in Edward Fairefax [i.e., Edward Fairfax], transl., Godfrey of Bulloigne, or The Recouerie of Ierusalem. […], London: […] Ar[nold] Hatfield, for I[saac] Iaggard and M[atthew] Lownes, →OCLC:
- What words be these? What fears do you dismay?
- To render lifeless; to subdue; to disquiet.
- To take dismay or fright; to be filled with dismay.
- A sudden or complete loss of courage and firmness in the face of trouble or danger; overwhelming and disabling terror; a sinking of the spirits
- Synonym: consternation
- He looked in dismay at the destruction of the town caused by the hurricane.
- c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene iii]:
- Come on: in this there can be no dismay;
My ships come home a month before the day.
- Condition fitted to dismay; ruin.