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  • Adj.




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 is an abysmal play performance?

  • One that is relatively unknown.
  • One that is horribly awful.
  • One that is cancelled suddenly.

Memory Hook

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


  • 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
  • In spring training, the Mariners had two catchers trying to bounce back from the worst seasons of their careers, but with the odd juxtaposition that one was brought into replace the other. It was a calculated move by general manager Jerry Dipoto to address the Mariners’ abysmal situation at the position. —The Seattle Times
  • “The alert system failed, period—no ifs, ands or buts,” said Gary Kozel, who lives in the small town of Kenwood, which was devastated by the Nuns Fire. “I’m really hopeful the county will take the report seriously and will take the measures necessary to remedy what was an abysmal situation.” —San Francisco Chronicle
  • 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

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

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

Word Constellation


Word Variants

abyss n a seemingly bottomless pit