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

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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

The title character portrayed by Kiernan Shipka undoubtedly got a lot darker throughout the second installment, and naturally, her style reflected that. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "How to Get Kiernan Shipka's Makeup Look on "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"," 6 Apr. 2019 According to the GoT Wiki, Sarra has appeared in the show before, portrayed by a different actress, in Nutter's Red Wedding episode. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones Season 8: Everything We Know," 25 July 2018 Deborah Lacks, who is portrayed by Oprah Winfrey in the movie, died in 2009 at age 59. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, "Can the ‘immortal cells’ of Henrietta Lacks sue for their own rights?," 25 June 2018 The protagonist here, portrayed by Julia Roberts, doesn’t run off with her man in the end. Danny Murphy, Marie Claire, "My Best Friend's Wedding," 14 Feb. 2019 At their best, one-person plays have the intimacy and urgency of an encounter with someone who needs to get something off his or her chest, ideally portrayed by an actor who compels us to listen. Adam Green, Vogue, "Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal Return to the New York Stage in Sea Wall/A Life," 10 Dec. 2018 The acting is fantastic, especially the character of Queen Elizabeth II, who is portrayed by Claire Foy. The Christian Science Monitor, "What are you watching? Readers recommend 'Big Little Lies,' 'The Americans'," 1 June 2018 Aptly, these same two actors also portray Oberon, the King of the Fairies, and Titania, the Queen of the Fairies. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "A Midsummer Night in Ellicott City," 28 June 2018 In the short video from the Murphy Brown reboot, Miles Silverberg (portrayed by Grant Shaud) is listing off all that he's been up to since being the FYI producer — one of the things included a gig at The View. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'The View' Hosts Called Out Candice Bergen Over a 'Murphy Brown' Joke and Things Got Awkward," 21 Nov. 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

12 Apr 2019

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 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.

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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

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


an act or instance of returning to life

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