adjective por·ten·tous \ pȯr-ˈten-təs \
Updated on: 31 Dec 2017

Definition of portentous

1 : of, relating to, or constituting a portent
  • suspense, portentous foreshadowing, hints of sinister and violent mysteries
  • —Francine Prose
2 : eliciting amazement or wonder : prodigious
3 a : being a grave or serious matter
  • portentous decisions
b : self-consciously solemn or important : pompous
  • portentous declamation unsalted by the least trace of humor
  • —W. H. Pritchard
c : ponderously excessive
  • that discipline's overwrought, portentous phrases
  • —R. M. Coles





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Examples of portentous in a Sentence

  1. an eerie and portentous stillness hung over the camp the night before the battle

  2. in 1969 people regarded the first landing on the moon as a truly portentous event

Recent Examples of portentous from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'portentous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of portentous

15th century

Synonym Discussion of portentous

ominous, portentous, fateful mean having a menacing or threatening aspect. ominous implies having a menacing, alarming character foreshadowing evil or disaster.
    • ominous rumblings from the volcano
portentous suggests being frighteningly big or impressive but now seldom definitely connotes forewarning of calamity.
    • an eerie and portentous stillness
fateful suggests being of momentous or decisive importance.
    • the fateful conference that led to war

PORTENTOUS Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of portentous for English Language Learners

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

  • : trying to seem important, serious, or impressive

PORTENTOUS Defined for Kids


adjective por·ten·tous \ pȯr-ˈten-təs \

Definition of portentous for Students

: giving a sign or warning of something usually bad that is going to happen
  • a portentous dream

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to blend or mix together

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