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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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 His sentiment could portend a rocky road for some of the reforms. Brittany Wallman, sun-sentinel.com, 30 Aug. 2021 The developments portend a shock to the economy and pose political realities. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 28 Aug. 2021 Exxon and Shell debacles portend climate reckoning for food companies Over the past few weeks the giants of the fossil fuels industry have been forced to reckon with their contribution to global warming. Hank Cardello, Forbes, 8 June 2021 But pandemic precautions portend a very different season this year, and some school districts are delaying play — spurring spats among parents, coaches and public health experts. Laura Ungar, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2021 Paul is soon visited by dreams of one Fre-woman in particular, Chani (Zendaya), disturbing visions that come to him unreliably and often without context but seem to portend real future events. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 3 Sep. 2021 That seemed to portend good things for the United States. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, 15 Aug. 2021 For others, the spiking rates, and the fact that if infected, few vaccinated people fall gravely ill, portend a new reality of cohabiting with the virus — maybe indefinitely. Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, 28 July 2021 But experts urge caution when using a one-year increase to portend a longer-term trend. Priya Krishnakumar, CNN, 14 July 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

4 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Portend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portend. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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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 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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