ominous

adjective
om·​i·​nous | \ ˈä-mə-nəs How to pronounce ominous (audio) \

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

After the disappointment of the season-opening Australian GP two weeks ago, Ferrari has looked ominous here with the drivers finishing 1-2 in all three practices and carrying that over into qualifying. Jerome Pugmire, The Seattle Times, "Royal approval: Leclerc’s F1 pole praised by Prince Albert," 30 Mar. 2019 The future may feel ominous and uncertain this week, but don’t lose faith. Teen Vogue, "This Week's Horoscopes: March 17 to 23," 18 Mar. 2019 Meanwhile, the travails of the German car industry are cited, most recently by the Bundesbank, as a factor in Europe’s sudden and ominous economic slowdown. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "The Lessons of ‘Dieselgate’," 4 Jan. 2019 Hawley's stance has been particularly surprising—and ominous for Google—because Hawley is a Republican. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Newly elected Republican senator could be Google’s fiercest critic," 24 Nov. 2018 The roboticist didn't expect that the AI would start producing strange and ominous messages, many of them tinged with absurdist humor. Peter Holley, The Seattle Times, "Roboticist trains AI to tell people their fortunes," 16 Oct. 2018 This kind of feels like the beginning of something new and ominous. Fox News, "High school friend of Kavanaugh reacts to new allegation; Alan Dershowitz on Kavanaugh chaos," 28 Sep. 2018 On stage, against a backdrop of the mountain mesas which was the home of the Manhattan Project, hangs a massive and ominous silver ball. Paul Ross, Popular Mechanics, "I Am Become Opera: An Atomic Show In the Shadow of Los Alamos," 27 July 2018 Early in the evening, came the first ominous foreshadowing: an email from my former managing editor said everyone was concerned about Rob. William Marimow, Philly.com, "Rob Hiaasen's former boss recalls the 'five-tool player'," 29 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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Statistics for ominous

Last Updated

15 Apr 2019

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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 How to pronounce ominous (audio) \

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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