por·​tray | \pȯr-ˈtrā, pər-\
portrayed; portraying; portrays

Definition of portray 

transitive verb

1 : to make a picture of : depict

2a : to describe in words

b : to play the role of : enact

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Other Words from portray

portrayer noun

Examples of portray in a Sentence

The White House has portrayed the President as deeply conflicted over the matter. The lawyer portrayed his client as a victim of child abuse. He portrayed himself as a victim. The painting portrays the queen in a purple robe. Laurence Olivier portrayed Hamlet beautifully.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Foy, who portrayed Queen Elizabeth for two seasons of the Netflix series, gave a touching acceptance speech thanking her fellow nominees and her castmate, Matt Smith. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Claire Foy Just Dedicated Her Emmy's Speech to Her Co-Star Matt Smith," 18 Sep. 2018 Ashleigh Murray and KJ Apa, who portray Archie Andrews and Josie McCoy on the series Riverdale, respectively, stormed the stage with the tropical house turned pop producer during his headline set at FVDED in the Park in British Colombia. Kat Bein, Billboard, "Kygo Invites 'Riverdale' Actors Ashleigh Murray & KJ Apa to Sing 'It Ain't Me': Watch," 9 July 2018 Kevin Macdonald’s documentary that portrays Houston as an artist, a cultural phenomenon and, in the end, a victim of unscrupulous and abusive family members as well as a trainwreck-addicted tabloid culture. Ann Hornaday, kansascity, "New Whitney Houston documentary transcends the rise-and-fall formula," 5 July 2018 On board to star in the feature is Clueless actress turned would-be conservative politician Stacey Dash, who will portray Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. refinery29.com, "What We Know About Stacey Dash's Controversial Film About Roe v. Wade," 3 July 2018 One of the furry faces who portrayed Duke, whose real name was Sam, passed away last week after a battle with cancer. Scott Berson, miamiherald, "Golden retriever who played Bush's Beans' 'Duke' dies after battle with cancer," 3 July 2018 Along with the Americana Chorus, performers include Ragtime pianist Paul Orsi and Gay Storm, a Hollywood actress who will humorously portray Lady Liberty; soloist Elizabeth Wilson-Manahan; organist Steve Vandlen; and Boy Scout Troop 752. Linda Mcintosh, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Daughters of Amer. Revolution recruit," 29 June 2018 Males and females who are currently portraying a high school mascot and have a mascot costume are needed. Mary Caldwell, ajc, "Diane Keaton movie seeking high school mascot," 28 June 2018 Among the cast was actor Fred Willard (who portrayed Captain Thomas Woods). Chris Morris, Fortune, "Trump's 'Space Force' Was Launched Once Before — On Television — and It Crashed," 18 June 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for portray

Middle English portraien, from Anglo-French purtraire, from Latin protrahere to draw forth, reveal, expose — more at protract

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Statistics for portray

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for portray

The first known use of portray was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for portray



English Language Learners Definition of portray

: to describe (someone or something) in a particular way

: to show (someone or something) in a painting, book, etc.

: to play (a character) in a film, play, or television show


por·​tray | \pȯr-ˈtrā \
portrayed; portraying

Kids Definition of portray

1 : to make a portrait of The artist portrayed the young queen.

2 : to describe in words or words and images The story portrays frontier life.

3 : to play the role of He portrays the hero in a movie.

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More from Merriam-Webster on portray

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with portray

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for portray

Spanish Central: Translation of portray

Nglish: Translation of portray for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of portray for Arabic Speakers

Comments on portray

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living or existing for a long time

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