por·​tent | \ˈpȯr-ˌtent \

Definition of portent 

1 : something that foreshadows a coming event : omen, sign

2 : prophetic indication or significance

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Examples of portent in a Sentence

a red sky in the morning can be a portent of a coming storm a scout was sent to have a look at this teenage pitcher who was supposed to be the latest portent of the baseball world

Recent Examples on the Web

But the eggs being served at Frenchette, Flora Bar, and other portents of the Age of Egg are pastured eggs: eggs from chickens that still forage and peck and lay less frequently. Tamar Adler, Vogue, "Why Pastured Eggs Are the Perfect Food," 13 Sep. 2018 The historical detail is well dosed, and the narrative delivers on its portents. Michael Owen, New York Times, "A Tale of Soviet-Era Bucharest Probes the Ties Between Writer and Muse," 2 Mar. 2018 Still, Ziggy feels like a portent of things to come. Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times, "‘First Person’: Ghost writer and con-man client go to some dark places," 17 Apr. 2018 Ominous portents because Boston went on to lose both those series. Charles P. Pierce, SI.com, "Marcus Smart Continues to Give the Celtics Exactly What They Need," 14 May 2018 Within the administration, some painted the strike as a possible portent of greater American involvement in the Syrian conflict. Laura King, latimes.com, "Trump touts 'perfectly carried out' missile strike, but lacks an overall strategy toward Syria," 15 Apr. 2018 And does part of the answer, scientists and local residents ask, lie in the bay itself, at once a testament to Brazil’s economic power and a portent of environmental risk. Photographs And Text By Dado Galdieri, New York Times, "‘Sentinel’ Dolphins Die in Brazil Bay. Some Worry a Way of Life Has, Too.," 2 Apr. 2018 García Márquez attributed his fascination with the supernatural to his grandmother’s belief in ghosts, omen and portents. Laignee Barron, Time, "Today is Gabriel García Márquez's 91st Birthday. What to Know About the Master of Magical Realism," 6 Mar. 2018 Perhaps the troubling signs Roiphe detects are portents of a dark future. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Katie Roiphe Is Right About Twitter Feminism and Wrong About #MeToo," 16 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'portent.' 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 portent

1562, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for portent

Latin portentum, from neuter of portentus, past participle of portendere

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Statistics for portent

Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for portent

The first known use of portent was in 1562

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More Definitions for portent



English Language Learners Definition of portent

: a sign or warning that something usually bad or unpleasant is going to happen


por·​tent | \ˈpȯr-ˌtent \

Kids Definition of portent

: a sign or warning of something usually bad that is going to happen : omen

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