ominous

adjective
om·i·nous | \ˈä-mə-nəs \

Definition of ominous 

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

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Other Words from ominous

ominously adverb
ominousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of ominous in a Sentence

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 Wheatcroft, Atlantic, March 2001 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 Silko, Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit, 1996 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 Wright, Rite of Passage, 1994 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. Lapham, Harper's, May 1993 an ominous threat of war He spoke in ominous tones.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The crime scene was ominous: knives were missing from the kitchen and a section of carpet in her bedroom had been cut out and removed. CBS News, "Did a missing Army nurse fall prey to a serial killer targeting military women?," 26 June 2018 But the music is ominous — all minor chords, twitchy percussion and detached keyboard tinkling. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "Beyoncé and Jay-Z: The State of the Union Is Strong," 17 June 2018 The Times Editorial Board warned that Trump appears ready to cross a bright line: This threat of intervention was ominous. Paul Thornton, latimes.com, "Trump shouldn't 'hereby demand' anything from the Justice Dept.," 26 May 2018 The Pentagon announced the plan in January 2012 but ultimately scuttled the mission after more ominous suggestions from North Korea about the safety of U.S. troops involved, Russel said. Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, "For the U.S., a frustrating history of recovering human remains in North Korea," 4 July 2018 The condition of never being alone again had always struck me as one of the most ominous, nightmarish parts of parenthood — a point of no return. Reyhan Harmanci, The Cut, "Pre-Baby Maternity Leave Is the Strangest Vacation," 2 Apr. 2018 These ominous songs create an elegant mood in an otherwise hostile home — juxtaposition at its finest. refinery29.com, "Sharp Objects," 9 July 2018 The opposite sides proceed in lockstep until nature intervenes: A tiger from the DMZ (accompanied by some mystical humanoid figures and an ominous mist) maims a solider on either side. Sharon Mizota, latimes.com, "Review: At the Korean DMZ, reunification through one artist's strange lens," 7 July 2018 For decades, the dilapidated presence of the once majestic train station stung residents as an ominous reminder of widespread neglect. Tamara Warren, The Verge, "Inside Detroit’s crumbling train station that Ford plans to transform into a mobility lab," 20 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of ominous

1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ominous

see omen

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for ominous

The first known use of ominous was in 1580

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More Definitions for ominous

ominous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of ominous

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

ominous

adjective
om·i·nous | \ˈä-mə-nəs \

Kids Definition of ominous

: 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

Other Words from ominous

ominously adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on ominous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ominous

Spanish Central: Translation of ominous

Nglish: Translation of ominous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ominous for Arabic Speakers

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