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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Indeed, this week’s standoff over Covid-19 relief is a grim portent of what legislative business might look like under a Biden administration. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Mitch McConnell Is Giving Us a Sneak Preview of the Political Hell to Come," 29 Dec. 2020 The land disputes wouldn’t be settled for years to come — a portent of the role that real estate has played in the state throughout its history. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: California isn’t ‘hemorrhaging’ people, but there are reasons for concern," 24 Dec. 2020 The chaos around Dover is an unexpected portent of what's to come should the U.K. fail to negotiate a deal with the E.U. by the deadline of Dec. 31. NBC News, "As U.K. faces mutant virus surge over Christmas, experts warn U.S.: 'It's coming'," 22 Dec. 2020 No one knows what astronomical occurrence, if any, might have prompted that biblical portent, Dr. Wasserman said. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, "A Christmas Star? Jupiter and Saturn Alignment Sparks Comparisons," 20 Dec. 2020 For a while all anyone could talk about, in tones of portent and doom, was what the baby might be missing. Patricia Lockwood, The New Yorker, "The Winged Thing," 23 Nov. 2020 To many, the dam isn’t just about electricity, but a portent of a glorious future. Washington Post, "Africa’s largest dam powers dreams of prosperity in Ethiopia — and fears of hunger in Egypt," 15 Oct. 2020 The skull felt like a portent, but also a turning point. Brian Groh, Star Tribune, "The radicalization of a small American town," 27 Oct. 2020 At this time of year, a low temperature of 45 degrees in Washington may be regarded as a chill portent of what awaits us, as the sun sinks ever lower in our skies. Martin Weil, Washington Post, "Saturday was the coolest day all season, yet still quite fine," 18 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about portent

Time Traveler for portent

Time Traveler

The first known use of portent was in 1562

See more words from the same year

Statistics for portent

Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Portent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portent. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for portent


How to pronounce portent (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!