c. 1300, dismaien, "become or be alarmed, upset, or frightened; to confound, break down the courage of by danger or difficulty or fear of calamity, fill with despairing apprehension;" perhaps formed in Anglo-French or Middle English from dis-, here probably intensive (see dis-), + amaien, esmaien, from Old French esmaier "to trouble, disturb."
This is from Vulgar Latin *exmagare "divest of power or ability" (source of Italian smagare "to weaken, dismay, discourage"), from ex- (see ex-) + Proto-Germanic *magan "to be able" (source also of Old High German magen "to be powerful or able"), from PIE root *magh- "to be able, have power."
There also was an Old French *desmaier (attested only in past participle dismaye), from de-, intensive prefix, + Old French esmaier, which also might be the source of the Middle English word. Spanish desmayer "to be dispirited" is a loan word from Old French. Related: Dismayed; dismaying.
c. 1300, dismai, "consternation, fear, sudden or complete loss of courage, terrified amazement," from dismay (v.) or else from Old French esmai on the same pattern that formed the English verb.
updated on October 13, 2021