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

The demise of Wow doesn't necessarily portend skyrocketing airfare, so don't dash those dreams of a cheap Euro-trip just yet. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Are the Discount Airlines Doomed?," 29 Mar. 2019 The top end of the market attracts foreign investors and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and a slowdown doesn’t necessarily portend trouble for Toll Brothers or less-wealthy buyers. Harriet Torry, WSJ, "Toll Brothers Profit Jumps as Wealthy Americans Spend," 21 Aug. 2018 Sanctions leveled by Washington last month on Venezuela’s oil industry have exacerbated Mr. Maduro’s difficulties, cutting off Venezuela’s only meaningful source of income and portending further declines in oil output. Kejal Vyas, WSJ, "China Talks With Venezuela Opposition to Protect Investments," 12 Feb. 2019 Trump’s ascension has seemed in many ways to portend a more wholehearted Democratic shift in favor of the Clinton/Obama position. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Elizabeth Warren wants to outflank Trump on trade," 29 Nov. 2018 Generally, the presence of warm water in the North Atlantic would tend to portend a busy season. Phil Klotzbach, Washington Post, "Another busy Atlantic hurricane season expected, but unlikely as brutal as the last one," 5 Apr. 2018 Bond yields also haven’t risen to the level that many fear could portend a turning point for the stock market. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Investors on Edge After Bumpy First Quarter for Stocks," 1 Apr. 2018 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

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

19 Apr 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

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

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marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

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