por·​trait | \ ˈpȯr-trət How to pronounce portrait (audio) , -ˌtrāt \

Definition of portrait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : picture especially : a pictorial representation of a person usually showing the face
2 : a sculptured figure : bust
3 : a graphic portrayal in words



Definition of portrait (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being a rectangular document having the vertical dimension longer than the horizontal dimension switching from landscape to portrait mode — compare landscape sense 3

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Examples of portrait in a Sentence

Noun The queen posed for her portrait. The book presents a portrait of life in a small town.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Taken together, these pieces are an exhilarating reminder of the power of literary portraits. Erin Overbey, The New Yorker, "Sunday Reading: The Art of the Profile," 16 Feb. 2020 Papa Hemingway,’’ which was praised as one of the most revealing portraits of the author. Matt Schudel, BostonGlobe.com, "A.E. Hotchner, author with a gift for famous friendships, dies at 102," 16 Feb. 2020 Netflix also released a fun little clip featuring Alistair Petrie, who plays Principal Groff on the show, going through a list of the special portraits that were revealed for season two. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, ""Sex Education" Renewed for Season Three on Netflix," 10 Feb. 2020 The answer is yes, especially when a photographer treats them as such, and as in examples such as Richard Avedon’s enlarged contact sheets of Groucho Marx portraits. Steven Litt, cleveland, "‘Proof’ at Cleveland Museum of Art celebrates lost art of the contact sheet in age of film roll photography," 9 Feb. 2020 His comment is from his newest book, The Meeting, a collection of portraits. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 7 Feb. 2020 On Wednesday, Christie’s will offer a suite of 11 Andy Warhol portraits of athletes such as Muhammad Ali and jockey Bill Shoemaker that are expected to sell for at least $6.3 million altogether. WSJ, "Outlier Artists Shine in London Auctions," 7 Feb. 2020 Visitors to the gallery are greeted by four video portraits, looping on consecutive screens and lighted to suggest the faces are in a tunnel. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: A D.C.-Madrid ‘conversation’ beween artists, two shows infused with color and light, and Persian perspectives," 7 Feb. 2020 After spotting a portrait of itself, though, a dog skipped those steps and went into full art critic mode, no studying required. Melissa Locker, Time, "Understandable Dog Has Increasingly Suspicious Reaction to Its Own Portrait," 5 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The small park behind Tahrir Square has been divided by tents, one of which has become a steadily expanding portrait gallery with photographs of those who have been killed by the security forces. Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, "In Iraq, Where Beauty Was Long Suppressed, Art Flowers Amid Protests," 3 Feb. 2020 Yet for all the darkness, there’s a welcome and important dose of levity too, from a hilarious video of a beauty products fair by María Luisa Bemberg to Regina Vater’s playful, costumed self-portrait photographs. New York Times, "The Art of Staying Cool: 10 Can’t-Miss Summer Shows in New York," 4 July 2018 Arneson sets the tone through a ceramic self-portrait head from 1973, wall-mounted near the entry. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, "This Candy Store wasn't a candy store: Remembering a California gallery that made art stars," 3 July 2018 In portrait orientation, the left side of the bottom bar only has space for about three to four app icons. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Acer Chromebook Tab 10 review: Chrome OS revives Google’s tablet future," 23 June 2018 And even though the demand for photographers in traditional media has declined, there’s still a high-demand for commercial and portrait photographers. Jenny Knizner, USA TODAY, "20 In-Demand Freelance Skills That’ll Get You Hired Today," 4 June 2018 Dorothea Tanning’s self-portrait Birthday (1942) shows her bare-breasted, standing with a small winged monster with her back to a house full of open doors. Thomas Hine, Philly.com, "Art Museum show gives American Modernists - and Philly ones - new respect," 12 Apr. 2018 The heads presage a self-portrait print from 1990, displayed nearby, as well as the soft fabric figurative sculptures that Bourgeois took up in the late ’90s. Roberta Smith, New York Times, "Louise Bourgeois: Imagination Unfolds in All Dimensions," 27 Sep. 2017 Portrait sessions for families whose memories were stolen by the wind. Southern Living, "What Stands in a Storm, Part III: Fellowship," 1 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'portrait.' 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 portrait


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1975, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for portrait


Middle French, from past participle of portraire

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Time Traveler for portrait

Time Traveler

The first known use of portrait was in 1570

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Statistics for portrait

Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Portrait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portrait. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for portrait


How to pronounce portrait (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of portrait

: a painting, drawing, or photograph of a person that usually only includes the person's head and shoulders
: a detailed description of something or someone
: a way of printing a page so that the shorter sides are on the top and bottom and the longer sides are on the left and right


por·​trait | \ ˈpȯr-trət How to pronounce portrait (audio) , -ˌtrāt \

Kids Definition of portrait

: a picture of a person usually showing the face

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