por·​tray | \ pȯr-ˈtrā How to pronounce portray (audio) , 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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The ad tried to portray Fiorina’s primary rival Tom Campbell as a Republican, a fiscal conservative, in name only. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, "Provocative GOP ad maker tries to transform Gavin Newsom rival John Cox into a 'beast'," 4 May 2021 There, after being cast to portray the wife of another student in a one-act play, love blossomed in real life. Pam Louwagie, Star Tribune, "The Rev. Cathy McDonald, who lent an ear to those whom society forgot, dies at 82," 3 May 2021 The Biden administration tried to portray itself as well prepared for the setback. New York Times, "Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations Paused After Rare Clotting Cases Emerge," 13 Apr. 2021 The reason is that corporations generally want to portray themselves as responsible while satisfying the profit orientation of their shareholders. William Nordhaus, Time, "The Case for Abandoning 'Corporate Responsibility' When We Judge Company Practices," 20 Apr. 2021 Democrats like to portray themselves as big believers in raising taxes on the well-to-do. Steve Forbes, Forbes, "SALT Tax Deduction: Will Democrats Cut Taxes For The Rich?," 20 Apr. 2021 Western pressure can sometimes backfire, analysts say, because Putin is so skilled at using Navalny’s plight to portray himself as a bulwark against outside meddling in Russian affairs. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, "How dissident Alexei Navalny’s new standoff with Russia’s Putin could play out," 1 Apr. 2021 That’s why, Shurkin noted, official French military social media accounts often portray soldiers digging wells, doing development work and other efforts to win hearts and minds. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "France Is Flooding Africa With Fake News," 28 Dec. 2020 Often in muted colors, the murals generally portray scenes of bygone days and glimpses of Texas history, industries, folk heroes and others. Carolyn Lindell, USA TODAY, "Mural, mural, on the wall: Texas small towns showcase daytrip-worthy paintings," 20 June 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about portray

Time Traveler for portray

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for portray

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Portray.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portray. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce portray (audio) \
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.

Comments on portray

What made you want to look up portray? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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