por·​tend | \ pȯr-ˈtend \
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

Kaufman believes that Wisconsin’s extreme makeover portends something scary for the rest of us. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "How Conservatives Bet Big on Wisconsin and Won," 11 July 2018 This suggests that ballot choice is a good indicator of partisan lean, and that this week’s results portend well for the Democrats in the fall. Seth Masket, Vox, "How Colorado’s unaffiliated voted," 29 June 2018 Brat carried tea party power in his race, and some today on the left suggest Ocasio-Cortez’s win portends a similar shift in the Democratic Party. Philip Elliott, Time, "How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Pulled Off the Biggest Upset of 2018," 28 June 2018 And yet a Trump visit to isolated Pyongyang portends logistical chaos. Jessica Meyers, latimes.com, "Ulan Bator? A ship at sea? The logistical nightmare of picking a venue for Trump to meet with Kim Jong Un," 12 Mar. 2018 But the recent hot weather is dangerous in more subtle ways, and is an ominous signal of what increasing average temperatures and climate change portend for some of the most vulnerable who must endure the heat to earn a living. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Extreme heat has already killed several outdoor workers this summer, and climate change will heat waves more costly.," 27 July 2018 For Guyana, the visa processing portends an even bigger windfall, likely tens of millions of dollars more yearly. Doreen Hemlock, miamiherald, "Cubans are flocking to Guyana for economic reasons — but there's a twist," 28 June 2018 What that portends for the weekend in the 118th U.S. Open may be harder to predict. Bill Pennington, New York Times, "Dustin Johnson Pulls Away in Round 2 of the U.S. Open," 15 June 2018 Apple’s forecast of revenue between $89 billion and $93 billion for the holiday quarter didn’t portend explosive growth, with the low end of its range only slightly above the year-ago results. Sarah E. Needleman, WSJ, "Apple Shares Stumble, but Company Keeps Trillion-Dollar Valuation," 2 Nov. 2018

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

11 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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


por·​tend | \ pȯr-ˈtend \
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

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