I've struggled with this word for about 2 years (no joke). Every time I see it, I look it up, kind of understand what it means in that context, and then gleefully forget.
Please help me understand the origin and meaning.
Probably the best way to describe dismal is as the opposite of cheerful. A grey rainy day is dismal, whereas a bright sunny day is cheerful.
It can also mean poor quality: 'Football Team United's performance was dismal!'
It comes from the Latin dies mali 'evil days', via French.