Etymology
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dismal (adj.)
Origin and meaning of dismal

c. 1400, "unlucky, inauspicious," in dismal day, earlier as a noun, in the dismal (c. 1300) "in days of misfortune or disaster, under inauspicious circumstances, at an unlucky time," from Anglo-French dismal (mid-13c.), apparently from Old French (li) dis mals "(the) bad days," from Medieval Latin dies mali "evil or unlucky days" (also called dies Ægyptiaci), from Latin dies "days" (from PIE root *dyeu- "to shine") + mali, plural of malus "bad" (from PIE root *mel- (3) "false, bad, wrong").

Through the Middle Ages, calendars marked as unlucky two days of each month (Jan. 1, 25; Feb. 4, 26; March 1, 28; April 10, 20; May 3, 25; June 10, 16; July 13, 22; Aug. 1, 30; Sept. 3, 21; Oct. 3, 22; Nov. 5, 28; Dec. 7, 22), supposedly based on the ancient calculations of Egyptian astrologers.

By 1580s the English word had been extended to "gloomy, dreary, cheerless," and was used to describe physical surroundings, sounds, or anything else felt as tending to depress the spirits. In North America, it was the name given along the seacoast and sounds around North Carolina to tracts of swampy land and dead trees (1763). The dismal science (1849) was Carlyle's name for "political economics." Related: Dismally.

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*mel- (3)

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "false, bad, wrong." The exact sense of the root remains uncertain, "since it concerns a collection of largely isolated words in different IE branches" [de Vaan].

It forms all or part of: blame; blaspheme; blasphemous; blasphemy; ‌‌dismal; mal-; malady; malaise; malaria; malediction; malefactor; malefic; malevolence; malevolent; malice; malicious; malign; malison; malversation; mauvais.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Avestan mairiia‑, "treacherous;" Greek meleos "idle; unhappy;" Latin male (adv.) "badly," malus (adj.) "bad, evil;" Old Irish mell "destruction;" Armenian mel "sin;" Lithuanian melas "lie," Latvian malds "mistake," possbily also Greek blasphemein "to slander." 

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*dyeu- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to shine," in derivatives "sky, heaven, god."

It forms all or part of: adieu; adios; adjourn; Asmodeus; circadian; deific; deify; deism; deity; deodand; deus ex machina; deva; dial; diary; Diana; Dianthus; diet (n.2) "assembly;" Dioscuri; Dis; dismal; diurnal; diva; Dives; divine; joss; journal; journalist; journey; Jove; jovial; Julia; Julius; July; Jupiter; meridian; Midi; per diem; psychedelic; quotidian; sojourn; Tuesday; Zeus.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit deva "god" (literally "shining one"); diva "by day;" Avestan dava- "spirit, demon;" Greek delos "clear;" Latin dies "day," deus "god;" Welsh diw, Breton deiz "day;" Armenian tiw "day;" Lithuanian dievas "god," diena "day;" Old Church Slavonic dini, Polish dzień, Russian den "day;" Old Norse tivar "gods;" Old English Tig, genitive Tiwes, name of a god.

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Lenten (adj.)

late Old English lencten "pertaining to Lent," from Lent + -en (2). Elizabethan English had Lenten-faced "lean and dismal" (c. 1600).

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pitchy (adj.)

1510s, "of the nature of or resembling pitch," from pitch (n.2) + -y (2). From 1580s as "black, dark, dismal." Related: Pitchiness.

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funereal (adj.)

"suitable for a funeral" (mournful, dismal, gloomy), 1725, from stem of Latin funereus "of a funeral," from funus "funeral; death" (see funeral) + -al (1). Perhaps by influence of French funerail.

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disconsolate (adj.)

late 14c., "causing discomfort, dismal;" c. 1400, "unhappy, dejected, melancholy, wanting consolation or comfort," from Medieval Latin disconsolatus "comfortless," from Latin dis- "away" (see dis-) + consolatus, past participle of consolari "offer solace, encourage, comfort, cheer," from assimilated form of com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + solari "to comfort" (see solace (n.)). Related: Disconsolately; disconsolateness.

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Acheron 

1580s, fabled river of the Lower World in Greek mythology, from Greek Akheron, the name of several real rivers in addition to being the mythical river of the Underworld. The name perhaps means "forming lakes" (compare Greek akherousai "marsh-like water"), from PIE root *eghero- "lake" (source of Lithuanian ežeras, ažeras, Old Prussian assaran, Old Church Slavonic jezero "lake").

The derivation from Greek akhos "woe" is considered folk etymology. The name later was given to certain rivers in Greece and Italy because they flowed through dismal surroundings or disappeared underground and were thought to be gateways to the Underworld. Related: Acherontic.

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dreary (adj.)

Old English dreorig "sad, sorrowful," originally "cruel, bloody, blood-stained," from dreor "gore, blood," from (ge)dreosan (past participle droren) "fall, decline, fail," used of rain, snow, dew, fruit, and the slain, from Proto-Germanic *dreuzas (source also of Old Norse dreyrigr "gory, bloody," and more remotely, Old Saxon drorag, Middle High German troric "bloody;" German traurig "sad, sorrowful"), from PIE root *dhreu- "to fall, flow, drip, droop" (see drip (v.)).

The word has lost its original sense and the notion of "dripping blood." Sense of "lonesomely dismal, gloomy" first recorded 1667 in "Paradise Lost," but Old English had a related verb drysmian "become gloomy." Weakened sense of "causing a feeling of tedium, tiresomely monotonous" is by 1871. Related: Drearily.

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malkin (n.)

also mawkin, late 13c., a jocular or contemptuous term for a servant-woman or kitchen-servant, a woman of the lower classes, or a slattern, a loose woman; from the fem. proper name Malkyn, a diminutive of Mault "Maud" (see Matilda). It also is attested from c. 1200 as the proper name of a female specter. Sense of "untidy woman" probably led to the extended meaning "mop, bundle of rags on a stick" (used to clean ovens, artillery pieces, etc.), c. 1400.

Attested as the name of a cat since 1670s (earlier as Grimalkin, late 16c.); compare Serbo-Croatian mačka "cat," originally a pet-name form of Maria. Also used in Scotland and northern England as the name of a hare (1724).

MALKINTRASH. One in dismal garb. [Grose, "Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," London, 1785]
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