adjective om·i·nous \ ˈä-mə-nəs \
|Updated on: 19 Aug 2018

Definition of ominous

: being or exhibiting an omen : portentous; especially : foreboding or foreshadowing evil : inauspicious





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Examples of ominous in a Sentence

  1. Not many sets of initials became universally recognizable during the twentieth century, and those that did often had ominous overtones, from SS to KGB. —Geoffrey WheatcroftAtlanticMarch 2001
  2. While politicians and multinational corporations extol the virtues of NAFTA … the ominous curtain is already up in a six-mile section at the border crossing at Mexicali … —Leslie Marmon SilkoYellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit1996
  3. Fighting against sensations that sought to claim him, he moved nervously and the note in his hand rattled with a dry and ominous whisper. —Richard WrightRite of Passage1994
  4. Arranged in two long and ominous rows, the branding irons dangled from the ceiling in the center of the room, suggesting some sort of fence or jail … —Lewis H. LaphamHarper'sMay 1993
  5. an ominous threat of war

  6. He spoke in ominous tones.

Recent Examples of ominous from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ominous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

The Difference Between ominous, portentous, and fateful

Ominous didn't always mean "foreshadowing evil." If you look closely, you can see the "omen" in "ominous," which gave it the original meaning of "presaging events to come" - whether good or bad. It is ultimately derived from the Latin word omen, which is both an ancestor and a synonym of our "omen." Today, however, "ominous" tends to suggest a menacing or threatening aspect. Its synonyms "portentous" and "fateful" are used similarly, but "ominous" is the most menacing of the three. It implies an alarming character that foreshadows evil or disaster. "Portentous" suggests being frighteningly big or impressive, but seldom gives a definite forewarning of calamity. "Fateful" implies that something is of momentous or decisive importance.

Origin and Etymology of ominous

see omen

Synonym Discussion of ominous

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

OMINOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of ominous for English Language Learners

  • : suggesting that something bad is going to happen in the future

OMINOUS Defined for Kids


adjective om·i·nous \ ˈä-mə-nəs \

Definition of ominous for Students

: considered a sign of evil or trouble to come
  • … the clouds there seemed to be growing darker, massing in ominous grey mounds with a yellowish tinge.
  • —Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising



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resembling the blue of the sky

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