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

Locked inside a crate at Kenya’s main international airport is a portent of what might happen if the ngadji were returned without the highest level of governmental coordination. Max Bearak, Washington Post, "Kenya’s Pokomo people ask the British to return what was stolen: Their source of power," 9 Aug. 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 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 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 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 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

24 Aug 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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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