por·​tage | \ˈpȯr-tij, sense 3 is also pȯr-ˈtäzh \

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, pȯr-ˈtäzh \
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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

In the 1960s, legislation was passed that allowed people to hand-carry boats from the parking lot, about a five-minute portage, and then launch. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Lake Chabot’s magic coronation of spring," 29 Mar. 2018 Adding the second start line (and cutting out two of the portages) definitely helped revitalized the race, as did adding the rentals. Annie Alleman, Aurora Beacon-News, "Kick off summer with the Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race," 22 May 2018 The center yoke thwart is perfectly balanced for one-person portages. The Editors, Outside Online, "REI Is Having an Huge Sale on Water Sports Gear," 18 May 2018 Participants in this race on July 29 will paddle 1 mile on Lake Mendota, portage 1 mile past the Capitol, then paddle 2.5 miles on Lake Monona to finish at Olbrich Park, where everyone can enjoy music, food and beer. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "AirVenture, Brewfest and more to do around Wisconsin this week," 23 July 2017 The backpack straps are key for long portages and transporting the bag down sketchy put-ins. Joe Jackson, Outside Online, "Why I Still Love the Original NRS Bill's Drybag," 19 Apr. 2018 Petit has made the run from Kaltag to Unalakleet with a solid 11-hour run on the portage. Jake Berkowitz, Anchorage Daily News, "Jake Berkowitz: Petit is in position to win the Iditarod. Here’s how," 11 Mar. 2018 There is a short portage from the parking area to the launch site. Bob Rountree, Sun-Sentinel.com, "The Talbot Islands: paradise on the edge," 10 Apr. 2018 Cost: $5 parking at Lake Chabot; $2 per dog; $2 to hand-launch kayaks, canoes (20 feet or less, short portage required from parking lot), plus $4 watercraft inspection. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Lake Chabot’s magic coronation of spring," 29 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about portage

Statistics for portage

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for portage

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on portage

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with portage

Nglish: Translation of portage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about portage

Comments on portage

What made you want to look up portage? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!