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

There is good reason to believe that this could portend still worse things to come for the U.S. Hispanic population, unless people begin to speak out loudly, and fast. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Stripping U.S. Citizens of Their Passports Is a Precursor to Genocide," 7 Sep. 2018 When his friendship with the new-in-town bookstore clerk portends life-changing news, Woodroof navigates a quaint, penetrating narrative about life's changing directions. Adrienne Westenfeld, Town & Country, "The Ultimate Preppy College Reading List," 3 Oct. 2014 These factors portend lasting trouble in Russia’s relations with the outside world. WSJ, "Notable & Quotable: Richard Pipes," 17 May 2018 That likely does not portend a major-league start until after the All-Star break. Kevin Acee, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Padres notes: Yates' big week; Lucchesi's workload; roster moves," 7 July 2018 AliExpress does portend capitalism’s collapse: Dresses that cost $16 degrade wages and the environment, for the sake of an obscene, always-accelerating demand for cheap stuff. Alice Hines, New York Times, "Letter of Recommendation: AliExpress," 11 Apr. 2018 The current explosion of biological knowledge, Mr Castilla felt, portended many more such opportunities. The Economist, "GenomicsSequencing the world," 23 Jan. 2018 Eight-speed automatic to eAWD Parting shot: Unnoticeable plug-in portends a cleaner, brighter future. Robert Duffer, chicagotribune.com, "Volvo surges ahead of competition with XC60 plug-in hybrid," 6 Dec. 2017 Yet those who champion Mr. Scott's inclusion say his win could portend more awards for food purveyors who aren't bound by classical standards, since he's essentially laid out a path for winning attention and acclaim. Stephanie Barna, The Christian Science Monitor, "South Carolina pitmaster breaks mold as James Beard winner," 21 May 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

15 Nov 2018

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

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Spanish Central: Translation of portend

Nglish: Translation of portend for Spanish Speakers

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