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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 *mēgh- (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.


  • IPA(key): /dɪsˈmeɪ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪ


dismay (uncountable)

  1. 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.
  2. Condition fitted to dismay; ruin.



dismay (third-person singular simple present dismays, present participle dismaying, simple past and past participle dismayed)

  1. To disable with alarm or apprehensions; to depress the spirits or courage of; to deprive of firmness and energy through fear; to daunt; to appall; to terrify.
    • 1611, King James Version, Josh. i. 9
      Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.
    • (Can we date this quote by Fairfax?)
      What words be these? What fears do you dismay?
  2. To render lifeless; to subdue; to disquiet.
    • (Can we date this quote by Spenser?)
      Do not dismay yourself for this.
  3. To take dismay or fright; to be filled with dismay.