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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 *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.


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


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

  1. To cause to feel apprehension; great sadness, or fear; to deprive of energy
    Synonyms: daunt, appall, terrify
  2. To render lifeless; to subdue; to disquiet.
  3. To take dismay or fright; to be filled with dismay.



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.