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 This week’s release postponements portend a tough road ahead. Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, "Column: ‘Black Widow,’ ‘West Side Story’ postponed again, this time to 2021. Theaters are stuck and closing again," 23 Sep. 2020 Including one Wall Street indicator that could portend bad things to come for growth investors. Anne Sraders, Fortune, "This stock market metric has never been further out of whack," 20 Sep. 2020 There are good arguments to be made for refining Japan’s defense spending, according to analysts who argue that such shifts should not portend any major alteration of Abe’s grand strategy. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Abe resignation may rile US-Japan ties calmed by personal bond with Trump," 29 Aug. 2020 Does this portend a permanent shift in work arrangements, along with long-term deteriorating of office properties in downtown Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and elsewhere around the state? Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic, "Will COVID-19 end offices in metro Phoenix? These industry experts say 'no'," 17 Sep. 2020 Dozens of other tribes echoed Nez’s call, fearing what this case could portend for their own sovereignty. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Federal Government Killed a Navajo Man Just to Prove It Could," 26 Aug. 2020 The coronavirus pandemic, by bringing into sharp focus anti-scientific beliefs among a broad segment of the president's supporters, offers a preview of the clashing worldviews that QAnon could portend, Zuckerman added. Anchorage Daily News, "How the Trump campaign came to court QAnon, the online conspiracy movement identified by the FBI as a violent threat," 2 Aug. 2020 That could portend another ominous gap between the popular vote and the all-important electoral vote tally. Damon Linker, TheWeek, "Is Joe Biden's polling advantage weaker than it appears?," 26 Aug. 2020 Four years later, the lack of a clear, consistent message could portend trouble. Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller, Jonathan Lemire, Anchorage Daily News, "Radical or moderate? Trump paints Democratic ticket as both," 13 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for portend

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

3 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Portend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portend. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for portend


How to pronounce portend (audio)

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on portend

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for portend

Nglish: Translation of portend for Spanish Speakers

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