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 president enjoys wide popularity within his own party, but a GOP defeat in a red-leaning state could portend trouble for his reelection campaign. Jonathan Lemire, Fortune, "Trump Uses North Carolina Campaign Rally to Slam ‘American-Hating Left’," 10 Sep. 2019 Whatever the precise causes, the ascendant generation portends a change in political attitudes on a host of issues: Its opinions on immigration, the favorability of diversity, and climate change are all markedly different from those of older voters. Nate Hochman, National Review, "How Might Republicans Win Young Voters?," 16 July 2019 Though the race for the Democratic nomination is early and fluid, the dueling visits to Iowa offer a glimpse into what a Trump-Biden matchup might portend. Time, "President Trump and Joe Biden Will Overlap in Iowa After Months of Jabbing Each Other," 11 June 2019 But going more than 100 years without major seismic activity along the fault zone is an anomaly, geologists say, and could portend a massive earthquake along the infamous fault. Scottie Andrew And Nadeem Muaddi, CNN, "Seismic activity along the San Andreas fault line could trigger a devastating earthquake in California by 2030," 6 July 2019 Unseasonably mild weather has limited demand for electricity to power air conditioners while the recent rise in crude prices portends more gas produced as a byproduct of oil drilling. Ryan Dezember, WSJ, "Middle East Clashes Send Oil Sharply Higher," 20 June 2019 More Politics — Analysts worry that the fires raging in Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant could portend a larger, regionwide conflagration between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: How the FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation was limited," 16 Sep. 2019 But a sluggish offensive performance in a 24–0 opening win over Liberty portended a 63–20 blowout loss to Maryland in Week 2, re-setting expectations for this season. Scooby Axson, SI.com, "Can Syracuse Re-Capture Past Magic vs. Clemson Amid Disappointing Start to 2019?," 12 Sep. 2019 Because Glasgow Prestwick Airport is relatively close to the Turnberry Resort, fiscal issues at the local airport would portend similar doom for the Trump hotel, which relies on potential customers who fly in and out of Prestwick. John Hirschauer, National Review, "Rachel Maddow’s Turnberry Tale," 12 Sep. 2019

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 2019

Time Traveler for portend

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

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More Definitions for portend


How to pronounce portend (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for portend

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with portend

Spanish Central: Translation of portend

Nglish: Translation of portend for Spanish Speakers

Comments on portend

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to engage in dissolute behavior

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