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[uh-biz-muh l] /əˈbɪz məl/
of or like an abyss; immeasurably deep or great.
extremely or hopelessly bad or severe:
abysmal ignorance; abysmal poverty.
Origin of abysmal
1650-60; abysm + -al1
Related forms
abysmally, adverb
ultra-abysmal, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for abysmal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was a vast silence about him, a silence as deep and unbroken as the abysmal pit in which he seemed to be floating.

    The Courage of Marge O'Doone James Oliver Curwood
  • It seemed the top of earthly fortune to be free, and abysmal misery to have missed it.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
  • Not so with the man who has dwelt, untutored, for many years, amid these stupendous hills and abysmal gorges.

    The Crest of the Continent Ernest Ingersoll
  • But then it might all be real instead, and that was abysmal horror.

    The Eternal Wall Raymond Zinke Gallun
  • What strange, abysmal vitality informs them is beyond all speculation.

British Dictionary definitions for abysmal


immeasurable; very great: abysmal stupidity
(informal) extremely bad: an abysmal film
Derived Forms
abysmally, adverb
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
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Word Origin and History for abysmal

1650s, formed in English from abysm + -al (1). Weakened sense of "extremely bad" is first recorded 1904, perhaps from abysmal ignorance (suggestive of its "depth"), an expression attested from 1847. Related: Abysmally.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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