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

transitive verb

: to give an omen or anticipatory sign of

Did you know?

It may seem like a stretch to say that portend, beloved verb of seers, soothsayers, and meteorologists alike, is related to tendon—the word we use to refer to the dense white fibrous tissue that helps us, well, stretch—but it’s likely true. Portend comes from the Latin verb portendere (“to predict or foretell”), which in turn developed as a combination of the prefix por- (“forward”) and the verb tendere (“to stretch”). Tendere is thought to have led to tendon, among other words. So you might imagine portend as having a literal meaning of “stretching forward to predict.” In any event, the history of the word surely showcases the flexibility of our language.

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 For example, Biden’s slippage in his own party could portend a dip in Democratic turnout. Craig Gilbert, Journal Sentinel, 21 May 2024 The unprecedented award to an American artist who, a decade earlier, portended the controversial Pop Art genre cresting sealed a slow but steady shift underway since the end of World War II: New York officially bumped Paris from the top slot of cultural taste makers. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for portend 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'portend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near portend

Cite this Entry

“Portend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portend. Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


por·​tend pȯr-ˈtend How to pronounce portend (audio)
: to give a sign or warning of beforehand

More from Merriam-Webster on portend

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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