por·​tent | \ ˈpȯr-ˌtent How to pronounce portent (audio) \

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

Get our daily newsletter In his office at the India Meteorological Department in New Delhi, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, the department’s boss, looks at portents which are dry in a different way—figures and lines on paper and screens. The Economist, "The South Asian monsoon, past, present and future," 27 June 2019 Despite all that, the delegates who met in Iceland recently for the annual gathering of the European Humanist Federation saw troubling portents on the horizon. Erasmus, The Economist, "Europe’s secularists worry about the rise of Christian-nativist populism," 11 June 2019 Amanda Zieve’s lighting also adds to the sense of portent. (jim Carmody), San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Horror-flick chills hint at larger ills in La Jolla Playhouse’s ambitious and mysterious ‘Put Your House in Order’," 9 June 2019 Even so, the fulfillment of the nightmare has me in the grip of its portent. Lisa Wells, Harper's magazine, "Nightmares at 20,000 Feet," 10 Apr. 2019 No one thought it the same, but the flames and smoke evoked similar feelings of grief and loss, and a sense of portent, especially for Catholics, who saw in the destruction a metaphor for—or a judgment of—the state of their church. ... Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Out of the Ashes of Notre Dame," 18 Apr. 2019 The forecast for Saturday was clear as well -- hailed by some royal fans as a happy portent in a country that lately hasn't seen a surfeit of feel-good news. Laura King, latimes.com, "Pomp and pageantry, a few days early: In Windsor, royal regalia goes through its paces," 17 May 2018 But the ensuing gang-beating offered a portent of what Amazon was walking into. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Amazon Escapes From New York," 14 Feb. 2019 In one, humanity has ravaged the planet’s surface, moved underground, and has only just begun to make the surface habitable again; in the other, King Shulgi and Susa, a priestess, argue about new stars in the sky and the meaning of portents. Amal El-mohtar, New York Times, "Princesses, Priestesses and Time Travel: What’s New in Science Fiction and Fantasy," 19 Apr. 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

13 Jul 2019

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

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


por·​tent | \ ˈpȯr-ˌtent How to pronounce portent (audio) \

Kids Definition of portent

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

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Comments on portent

What made you want to look up portent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


food or victuals

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