por·​tend | \ pȯr-ˈtend How to pronounce portend (audio) \
portended; portending; portends

Definition of portend

transitive verb

1 : to give an omen or anticipatory sign of

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Did You Know?

Portend has been used in English in the context of signs of things to come since the 15th century. The word derives from the Latin verb portendere, which means "to predict or foretell." That verb, in turn, developed as a combination of the prefix por- (meaning "forward") and the verb "tendere" (meaning "to stretch"). So you can think of "portend" as having a literal meaning of "stretching forward to predict." Additional descendants of "tendere" include "extend," "tendon," and "tension," among others.

Examples of portend in a Sentence

The distant thunder portended a storm. If you're superstitious, a black cat portends trouble.

Recent Examples on the Web

These findings don’t necessarily portend Ciomadul’s imminent eruption. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Magma Lurks Below This ‘Extinct’ Volcano in Romania," 19 July 2019 The Encarnacion deal could portend further moves ahead, and Frazier remains a potential trade piece if New York pursues starting pitching on the trade market. Michael Shapiro, SI.com, "New Kid in H-Town: Pitchers Should Fear the Astros' Latest Rookie Thumper," 18 June 2019 Each portended a record low at the end of the summer. The Economist, "The Greenland ice sheet is melting unusually fast," 17 June 2019 That portends danger — in the Maine hospital case and beyond. Frank D. Lomonte For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Whistleblowers' rights could be at risk under Trump's new labor board," 12 June 2019 The burning of the Waterford home portends big change, undeniably. David Canfield, EW.com, "The Handmaid's Tale stars break down Serena's shocking decision," 5 June 2019 Slowing demand for China’s exports in most markets also fed into a slowdown in the country’s imports and, some economists said, portends a broader weakening in growth in China and other parts of the world. WSJ, "China’s Exports Slowed in November, but Surplus With U.S. Grew," 8 Dec. 2018 The whipping winds portend poor weather on Sunday, so tournament officials moved up the start of the final round to 7:15 a.m. Flesch, Stricker and Andrade will head off the first tee box at approximately 9:15 a.m. James Owczarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Steve Stricker one shot back from leader Steve Flesch at AmFam Championship," 22 June 2019 The original Olmstead decision, authored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was far more balanced than DOJ portends. John Hirschauer, National Review, "Mississippi’s Mental-Illness Policies Are Working. DOJ Is Challenging Them.," 17 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'portend.' 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 portend

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for portend

Middle English, from Latin portendere, from por- forward (akin to per through) + tendere to stretch — more at for, thin

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Statistics for portend

Last Updated

26 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for portend

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

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More Definitions for portend



English Language Learners Definition of portend

formal + literary : to be a sign or warning that something usually bad or unpleasant is going to happen


por·​tend | \ pȯr-ˈtend How to pronounce portend (audio) \
portended; portending

Kids Definition of portend

: to give a sign or warning of beforehand Distant thunder portended a storm.

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More from Merriam-Webster on portend

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with portend

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for portend

Spanish Central: Translation of portend

Nglish: Translation of portend for Spanish Speakers

Comments on portend

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


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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