por·​tent ˈpȯr-ˌtent How to pronounce portent (audio)
: something that foreshadows a coming event : omen, sign
: prophetic indication or significance

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 The lover transforms into a conspiracy theorist as the beloved’s most innocuous email becomes a constellation of clues, her most trivial gesture a portent. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 May 2022 This year could be a portent of even more extreme, seashore-ruining, events. Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, 17 June 2023 He’s received higher marks at school, which, in a portent of her later-life ambition, has upset her. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, 1 June 2023 But no midnight portent was going to keep him home. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 6 Feb. 2023 Because Gagosian is such an object of fixation in rarefied circles, the press framed this reshuffle in corporate governance as a moment of Shakespearean portent. Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, 24 July 2023 In recent months, the signs and portents have been accumulating with increasing speed. James Vincent, The Verge, 26 June 2023 The first portent of imminent death is that flies cease to fly... Neuroskeptic, Discover Magazine, 19 Dec. 2017 Even if all sensible Democrats reject Beinart’s siren song to challenge Biden, pundits will keep the dream alive every time the polls and the portents look ominous for the president. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 10 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'portent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1562, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of portent was in 1562

Dictionary Entries Near portent

Cite this Entry

“Portent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portent. Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


por·​tent ˈpȯ(ə)r-ˌtent How to pronounce portent (audio)
: a sign or warning of a coming event : omen

More from Merriam-Webster on portent

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