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

This is a cover story red-handed with Donald Trump, Jr., making him look really ominous. Fox News, "'Angel moms' weigh in on the immigration debate," 24 Aug. 2018 But, last year, questions about where the Eagles would be after the 2018 draft seemed ominous. Marcus Hayes,, "Eagles' Howie Roseman made draft moves that should pay off like 2017's did | Marcus Hayes," 29 Apr. 2018 And the second post with the most impressions is more ominous than straight-up scary. Margaret Lin, Curbed, "This meme page curates the best of the internet’s ‘spooky toilets’," 5 Oct. 2018 The demise of Loki five minutes into the film sets an ominous tone. Jennifer Jhon, South Florida Parenting, "Avengers: Infinity War needs a warning label," 28 Apr. 2018 But even as the president has raged about Rosenstein, and lawmakers have repeatedly escalated the confrontation with new subpoenas and threats, each seemingly ominous moment has passed without incident. Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post, "‘A little steel in the spine’: Rod Rosenstein, facing mounting criticism from Congress, is starting to fight back," 7 July 2018 Looking back from the vantage point of Gilead, these rifts take on a more ominous tone., "June's Mom Took Back The Night, & Then Gilead Took Her," 3 May 2018 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

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

7 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for ominous

The first known use of ominous was in 1580

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English Language Learners Definition of ominous

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


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

Comments on ominous

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someone who never drinks alcohol

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