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 3)

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 3)

transitive verb

: to carry over a portage

intransitive verb

: to move gear over a portage


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

Definition of Portage (Entry 3 of 3)

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

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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 Towards the end, a fascinating part of the Helmericks’ journey involves their portage between rivers. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "In the 1940s, 2 naïve, unprepared kids paddled down the Yukon River. The story of what happened is an Alaska classic.," 2 Jan. 2021 Magnus said the lot will be converted to a passive park and will provide opportunities for fishing, relaxing and include a portage path for canoes, paddle boards and kayaks between the lakes. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A property in Oconomowoc's Isthmus district will become condos if the community doesn't raise $1.35 million," 4 Aug. 2020 The Indian Agency House was built along the portage route between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers in 1832 to house agent John H. Kinzie and his wife, Juliette. Barry Adams, Star Tribune, "A picture of the past emerges in Portage," 1 Aug. 2020 The $2 million plan from the Parks Department included a fish passage in the west side of the Milwaukee River, a scenic overlook, portage area and access to the water for people with disabilities, and dam repairs. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Public opposition sends latest Kletzsch Park dam proposal back to the drawing board," 24 Feb. 2020 The $2 million plan from Milwaukee County Parks includes a fish passage in the west side of the Milwaukee River; a scenic overlook, portage area and access to the water for people with disabilities; and dam repairs. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'Better delay than err': Latest Kletzsch Park dam proposal stalled by questions, concerns," 24 Dec. 2019 The last to sign the guest book at the portage trail was August 13. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, "Denali Highway is in great shape, and caribou are there for the taking," 8 Sep. 2019 Motorboats were used to get crews to the first portage point, then rescuers used canoes the rest of the way to retrieve the members. CBS News, "Girl Scouts rescued by boat after lightning strike at campsite," 27 July 2019 Volunteer paddlers assisted to collect data on access sites, journey segments, hazards, dams and portages, amenities at access sites and more. Beacon-news Staff, Aurora Beacon-News, "Workshops planned to share information about Fox River Water Trail," 14 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The group tried to portage before needing to leave four canoes in muck, Williams said, and outfitters later retrieved them. Bob Timmons, Star Tribune, "As newcomers increase in Boundary Waters, so do calls for help," 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, "Why whitewater rafting could be the safest way to a family vacation this summer," 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, "Cold Greets Paddlers In Hockanum River Race," 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, "How to Boat Camp the Russian River," 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, "2 Twin Cities canoeists overdue in BWCA wilderness are found," 1 June 2017

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.

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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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Time Traveler for portage

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for portage

Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Portage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portage. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

More from Merriam-Webster on portage

Nglish: Translation of portage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about portage

Comments on portage

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