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 The movie’s unsolvable problem is that nothing — not extreme close-ups, scary sets, ominous music or bodies splashed with bright, red blood — can cover up the fact that the marauding bunnies are adorable. Jim Kiest, San Antonio Express-News, "5 family-friendly, rabbit-centered movies to watch for Easter: 'Peter Rabbit,' 'Hop,' 'Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,' 'Night of the Lepus' and 'Harvey'," 31 Mar. 2021 The approach to the area was ominous, with downed trees littering the cemetery and debris strewn across gravesites. al, "On the trail of an EF3: Tracking the path of March 25′s strongest Alabama tornado," 29 Mar. 2021 But Galloway had an ominous warning about the arapaima. CBS News, "New invasive species emerges in Florida — a 10-foot-long river monster," 19 Mar. 2021 But Galloway had an ominous warning about the arapaima. Chris Perkins, sun-sentinel.com, "Meet Florida’s newest invasive species, an ugly Amazonian river monster that can grow 10 feet long," 4 Mar. 2021 Seeing the great animal in her pen felt ominous and sacred, like listening to the last speaker of a dying language. Molly Young, Curbed, "43 Minutes With Happy the Elephant," 15 Mar. 2021 Instead of intrinsic majesty within — or over — nature, Mark McKnight turns the tradition into something vaguely ominous and worrying. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Landscape and body, in sensuous shadow: The photos of Mark McKnight," 3 Mar. 2021 The novel opens in November 2003, at night, a realm of muted sounds and colors that feels both peaceful and ominous. Washington Post, "Simon Han’s ‘Nights When Nothing Happened’ is a poignant study of the immigrant experience," 30 Nov. 2020 If Wednesday’s 91-55 shellacking of UT-RGV was the ice breaker, the *Maui Invitational will be the first full plunge into a season that will be stalked by the pandemic’s ominous and omnipotent presence. Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "No. 19 Texas readies for relocated Maui Invitational," 29 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ominous

Time Traveler

The first known use of ominous was in 1580

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Statistics for ominous

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ominous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ominous. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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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