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

Trump’s latest move to frustrate the Russia investigation puts him and the country in ominous new territory. Paul Thornton, latimes.com, "Trump shouldn't 'hereby demand' anything from the Justice Dept.," 26 May 2018 But the way music is now distributed allows drill to be especially personal and ominous. New York Times, "Amid London’s Crime Surge, Authorities Take Aim at ‘Drill,’ a Bleak Style of Rap Music," 1 June 2018 Admissions tests, long an ominous and pressure-filled requirement for application to law school, may soon become entirely optional. Robert Channick, chicagotribune.com, "Admission tests may become optional at law schools," 15 May 2018 The story is set in a ballet academy where ominous and sadistic forces are at play. Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Suspiria' Lands Fall Awards Release Date in Theaters," 14 May 2018 The ominous first teaser trailer, though only roughly 30-secs long, shows Camila and Adriana’s characters mid-lake operation — getting rid of what surely looks like dead bodies. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Camila Mendes's New Movie "Coyote Lake" Releases Its First Creepy Trailer," 1 May 2019 Hadid artfully showcased the fire-engine red hardback cover, complete with ominous silhouette of a man holding an unidentified object, alongside her hand which was clad in an appropriately creepy lime green glove. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Would You Join the Bella and Gigi Hadid Book Club?," 18 Mar. 2019 Each of those possibilities seems ominous, but don’t stress out too much. Megan Stein, Country Living, "'NCIS: Los Angeles' Sparks Concern That the Show Might Be Ending," 14 Apr. 2019 Minding the Gap doesn't set itself up as an apology or justification for cycles of male misbehavior, just as an insightful glimpse, with beats of ominous disappointment and exhilarating optimism. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Minding the Gap': Film Review | Sundance 2018," 23 Jan. 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

10 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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