Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

portentous

play
adjective por·ten·tous \pȯr-ˈten-təs\

Simple Definition of portentous

  • : giving a sign or warning that something usually bad or unpleasant is going to happen

  • : trying to seem important, serious, or impressive

Full Definition of portentous

  1. 1 :  of, relating to, or constituting a portent <suspense, portentous foreshadowing, hints of sinister and violent mysteries — Francine Prose>

  2. 2 :  eliciting amazement or wonder :  prodigious

  3. 3 a :  being a grave or serious matter <portentous decisions> b :  self-consciously solemn or important :  pompous <portentous declamation unsalted by the least trace of humor — W. H. Pritchard> c :  ponderously excessive <that discipline's overwrought, portentous phrases — R. M. Coles>

por·ten·tous·ly adverb
por·ten·tous·ness noun

Examples of portentous

  1. <an eerie and portentous stillness hung over the camp the night before the battle>

  2. <in 1969 people regarded the first landing on the moon as a truly portentous event>



15th Century

First Known Use of portentous

15th century

Synonym Discussion of portentous

ominous, portentous, fateful mean having a menacing or threatening aspect. ominous implies having a menacing, alarming character foreshadowing evil or disaster <ominous rumblings from the volcano>. portentous suggests being frighteningly big or impressive but now seldom definitely connotes forewarning of calamity <an eerie and portentous stillness>. fateful suggests being of momentous or decisive importance <the fateful conference that led to war>.

Rhymes with portentous



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up portentous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

February 13, 2016

a trying or distressing experience

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image33683556

How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

2.2 pounds 100 pounds 16.96 pounds 196.5 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ