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

Darker and far more ominous than expected, thanks to the tragic circumstances of the final two games of the Finals. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: It’s a tricky, murky, and expensive (oh so expensive) path ahead for the Warriors," 14 June 2019 Some 290 million years ago, as the last trilobites scuttled across the seafloor, the skies above grew just a little more ominous. Quanta Magazine, "Asteroid Rate Jumped in Solar System’s Past," 17 Jan. 2019 And Sunday night only got more ominous for the Cavs as the game went on. Charlotte Wilder,, "The Warriors Broke the Cavaliers’ Spirit, And it Looks Unlikely They’ll Get it Back," 4 June 2018 The second season strikes an ominous note with an opening conversation between Dolores and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), the programmer in charge of the androids' software., "Engaged? How bucking tradition can help you save big," 22 Apr. 2018 With that ominous two-note John Williams theme and an infamous killer shark, the movie spawned the summer blockbuster and wracked many a nerve with its waterbound terror. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "All of Steven Spielberg's movies (including 'Ready Player One'), ranked," 28 Mar. 2018 More ominous, Tara seems to have taken a wound in the battle, on her arm. Steve Johnson,, "Showtime at the Hilltop: A big 'Walking Dead' battle leaves questions for all," 26 Mar. 2018 Trump’s latest move to frustrate the Russia investigation puts him and the country in ominous new territory. Paul Thornton,, "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

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

24 Jun 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 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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