1 of 2


por·​tage ˈpȯr-tij How to pronounce portage (audio)
sense 3 is also
pȯr-ˈtäzh How to pronounce portage (audio)
: the labor of carrying or transporting
archaic : the cost of carrying : porterage
: the carrying of boats or goods overland from one body of water to another or around an obstacle (such as a rapids)
: the route followed in making such a transfer


2 of 2


portaged; portaging

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
Another portage awaited, even longer and more difficult than the first. Larry Rohter, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Apr. 2023 The fifth session, an intermediate level program with a three- to four-mile paddle with a portage, will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at Glenwood Forest Preserve, 1644 S. River St. in Batavia. Beacon-News Staff, chicagotribune.com, 5 Apr. 2022 There are also boat launch areas and portage points as the park covers the main belt of the Kawartha Lakes. Miriam Porter, Forbes, 5 May 2023 Another exhausting portage began amid sheets of rain. Larry Rohter, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Apr. 2023 Ryan Redington, grandson of Iditarod architect Joe Redington Sr., arrived first into the Norton Sound community of Unalakleet early Sunday morning after making the long 85-mile run over the portage from Kaltag without stopping. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Mar. 2023 South is also getting a new portage built. Jordan Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 July 2021 The trail was intermittently paved and gravel, paralleling the Cuyahoga River and the ruins of locks that once served as a portage for ships carrying goods from Lake Erie down to the Ohio River. Emily Pennington, Outside Online, 1 Feb. 2023 The main difference between the two routes lies in the stretch of trail between the checkpoint of Ophir — about 340 miles into the race — and Kaltag, the last stop before a long overland portage to the Bering Sea Coast. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 22 Feb. 2023
There are ways to portage around these areas like the Kletzsch Park Waterfall but not always. Drew Dawson, Journal Sentinel, 27 July 2023 Many simply portage around it. Carson Vaughan, Outside Online, 27 Jan. 2020 Beaver dams are already making hunting and fishing more difficult for some people in the Arctic, forcing them to portage their canoes around the dams, for example. Sharon Levy, Discover Magazine, 9 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'portage.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1836, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near portage

Cite this Entry

“Portage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portage. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
por·​tage ˈpōrt-ij How to pronounce portage (audio) ˈpȯrt- How to pronounce portage (audio)
: the carrying of boats or goods overland from one body of water to another
: a route for such carrying


2 of 2 verb
portaged; portaging
: to go or carry over a portage

Geographical Definition


geographical name

Por·​tage ˈpȯr-tij How to pronounce Portage (audio)
city on Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana east of Gary population 36,828
city in southwestern Michigan south of Kalamazoo population 46,292

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