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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
  • His public school attendance record was abysmal.
  • The game also has an abysmal stealth sequence that is about 1 percent fun and 99 percent aggravation.
  • Bock says he doesn't expect tsunami films for years, given studios' abysmal showing with war-themed movies.
  • The job market for the past 2 years has been abysmal, difficult and limited, and next year might be the same.
  • But research shows that cognitive-ability tests are abysmal predictors of job performance, a key indicator of adult success.
  • The opening today is going to be abysmal.
  • Then came cholera, which is a disease of poverty — abysmal sanitation and lack of potable water can create an epidemic.
  • The 1.1m children in the system suffered: graduation rates were abysmal and test scores were terrible.
  • More than two and a half billion people in the world live in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation.
  • The acting was serviceable, but the writing was abysmal.
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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