por·​tage | \ ˈpȯr-tij How to pronounce portage (audio) , sense 3 is also pȯr-ˈtäzh How to pronounce portage (audio) \

Definition of portage

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the labor of carrying or transporting
2 archaic : the cost of carrying : porterage
3a : the carrying of boats or goods overland from one body of water to another or around an obstacle (such as a rapids)
b : the route followed in making such a transfer


por·​tage | \ ˈpȯr-tij How to pronounce portage (audio) , pȯr-ˈtäzh How to pronounce portage (audio) \
portaged; portaging

Definition of portage (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to carry over a portage

intransitive verb

: to move gear over a portage

Did you know?

Portage was borrowed from French back in the 15th century to mean "carrying, transporting" or "freight", and it has kept its simple "carrying" sense to the present day. But its first known use in its "carrying of boats" sense came in 1698, and the obstacle that the canoes couldn't be steered over was none other than Niagara Falls. Though canoes are much lighter today than they used to be, a long portage that includes a lot of camping gear can still test a camper's strength.

Examples of portage in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There will be a portage built in case paddleboarders or kayakers don’t want to use the step down rocks in their boats. Jordan Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 July 2021 Race rules require that layover to happen at one of the Yukon River checkpoints, and Kaltag is mushers’ last option before an 85-mile portage from the river over to the coast, which is notorious for its fickle weather. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Mar. 2022 Goddard, now in his mid-eighties and living in Los Angeles, had published a story about the adventure in the May 1955 issue of National Geographic, which Coetzee discounted due to Goddard’s 125-mile portage along the Murchison Falls area. Grayson Schaffer, Outside Online, 7 Feb. 2011 More than a thousand lakes, many linked by rivers and historic portage trails. The Week Staff, The Week, 5 Oct. 2018 The idea of a long portage has been in his head in various forms for years. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3 Oct. 2021 Our first clue to the character of the upper Delta River was a cigar-shaped obstacle in the water right after the portage. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Sep. 2021 Of course, there, too, are numerable dams to portage; as many as 27 lock and dams to navigate between the metro and St. Louis; countless barges to avoid; and who knows what else. Bob Timmons, Star Tribune, 6 May 2021 The county is also constructing a new portage for the dam near 2100 South. Jordan Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Brecksville Dam was removed in 2020, meaning paddlers have safe access to continue north past Station Road Bridge on the river without having to portage. John Pana, cleveland, 19 Apr. 2021 The group tried to portage before needing to leave four canoes in muck, Williams said, and outfitters later retrieved them. Bob Timmons, Star Tribune, 30 July 2020 Or couples could paddle a two-person raft on easier stretches of river, with instruction from guides, and portage their boats around more difficult rapids. Brian E. Clark, Los Angeles Times, 8 May 2020 While several paddlers made it through unscathed, others got hung up on the rocks or opted to portage out past the rapids. Annie Gentile, Courant Community, 1 May 2018 And because seasonal dams erected near Johnson’s Beach and Vacation Beach usually come down after Labor Day, fall paddlers don’t have to portage boats, either. Sunset, 22 Jan. 2018 Slatten said that the tributary is one of the many streams and rivers that connect the lakes in the area and can take away the need for canoeists to portage from one waterway to the next. Andrew Krueger, Twin Cities, 1 June 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'portage.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of portage


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1836, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for portage


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from porter to carry

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The first known use of portage was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

8 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Portage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portage. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for portage

Portage geographical name

Por·​tage | \ ˈpȯr-tij How to pronounce Portage (audio) \

Definition of Portage

1 city on Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana east of Gary population 36,828
2 city in southwestern Michigan south of Kalamazoo population 46,292

More from Merriam-Webster on portage

Nglish: Translation of portage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about portage


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