Intermediate+ Word of the Day: dim

dim (adjective, verb) /dɪm/ LISTEN

These lightbulbs keep the room dim.

As an adjective, dim means ‘lacking light’ and ‘not seen clearly or in detail.’ It also means ‘not seeing clearly,’ like when our eyes are filled with tears. Dim is also used to mean ‘not likely to happen’ and ‘not clear to the mind.’ Informally, a dim person is a stupid person. As a verb, to dim means ‘to cause to or to become less bright’ and, more broadly, ‘to cause to or to become less intense.’

Example sentences

  • Adam peered into the dim room, trying to see if there was anyone there.
  • The colors of the painting were dim with age.
  • Christina's eyes were dim with tears, so that she barely saw the train pull away.
  • The project is due this Friday and there is still so much work to be done; the team's chances of completing it successfully seem dim.
  • Joe is such a nice guy, but he's dim; he can't even name the capital of France.
  • Marilyn dimmed the lights to create a more romantic atmosphere.
  • Over time, Steve's memories began to dim.

Words often used with dim

take a dim view of something: disapprove. Example: “Lisa’s parents took a dim view of her staying out all night without calling them.”

In pop culture

In Chinese cookery dim sum refers to small portions of food, where a diner eats several different dim sum dishes to make up a whole meal (sort of like a Chinese version of tapas). Here is a video where you can see people eating and talking about different dim sum dishes:

Did you know?

In the US, if you dim the lights on your car, that means you are switching the lights from full beam to low beam, so as not to dazzle other drivers. In the UK, we use dip rather than dim for this action.

Other forms

dimly (adverb), dimness (noun)

Origin

Dim dates back to before the year 1000. The Old English adjective dimm, and later the Middle English dim(me), meant ‘dark, gloomy or obscure.’ It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic dimbaz, and is related to the Old Frisian dim, the Old Norse dimmr and the Old High German timber, all meaning ‘dark, black, or somber.’ There seems to be no relation to any word outside Germanic languages. The verb comes from the adjective and dates back to around the year 1200. Some linguists believe that it already existed in Old English, though all examples have been lost.

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