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  • Adj.

abysmal

uh-BIZ-muhl

Context
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Having a miserable bout of the flu on her birthday was an abysmal occurrence for Olivia. Not only did Olivia feel truly ill, but she also felt abysmally and completely sad since she knew her friends were planning a surprise party. Sitting on her couch with a cup of herbal tea and a box of tissues, she considered the deep, dark abyss or deep pit of her foul mood. There seemed no way to brighten her abysmal and extremely poor outlook on this disappointing birthday.

Quiz: What does abysmal describe?

  • A deep, dark place.
  • A bad or depressed mood.
  • A thing or situation that is terrible and dismal.

Memory Hook
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Abysmal Abysmal and Dismal Both abysmal and dismal--what could be worse than that?

Examples
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  • America’s abysmal failure in Iraq has brought about the collapse of a stunningly near-sighted movement, a movement which had the arrogance to assert that the Middle East would welcome American-style democracy with open arms. —The Economist
  • The status of Jews, who had led 'an abysmal existence under the Visigoths,' improved dramatically, and many rose to high positions. —The Christian Science Monitor
  • These are 'truly abysmal scores,' said education expert Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, during a Department of Education news conference. —BNET
  • Human Rights Watch/Africa — hardly a water carrier for U.S. policy — had recently labeled Khartoum’s human rights record as 'abysmal,' and reported that 'all forms of political opposition remain banned both legally and through systematic terror.' —The Washington Post

Word Ingredients
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a- not, without
bysm bottom
-al of or relating to

An abysmal mood is so dark and depressing that it seems “without a bottom.”

Word Theater
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Scrubs This doctor's explanation of how to recognize a heart murmur was apparently abysmal.
Abysmal

Word Constellation
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Abysmal

Word Variants
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abyss n a seemingly bottomless pit