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

In a recent interview with Good Morning America, Selena revealed that the most rewarding aspect of portraying her character Mavis (AKA Dracula's daughter) is seeing how others react to the role. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Selena Gomez Wears Oscar de la Renta at the "Hotel Transylvania 3" Premiere," 1 July 2018 Southern women are far from helpless, so stop portraying them as so. Southern Living, "Annoying Things Movies Always Get Wrong About the South," 3 July 2018 That’s also an important point, because clearly the legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown, in enacting the law, painfully attempted to avoid the free speech issue by portraying it as just a consumer protection measure. Dan Walters, SFChronicle.com, "Supreme Court voids California law, upholds free speech," 27 June 2018 But most of those headlines portrayed the Bundys as straight-up lunatics who called on a militia to fight the BLM over unpaid cattle grazing fees and a belief that the government should not own public lands. The Editors, Outside Online, "What We Read, Watched, and Listened to in May," 1 June 2018 As Motherboard’s documents show, fictional characters or settings portrayed in the context of hate are strictly to be left alone. Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, "Facebook will ban hateful images of Pepe the Frog but not much else," 25 May 2018 The most notorious real-life gangster portrayed in Goodfellas didn’t go down for the Lufthansa heist, whacking Billy Batts, robbery, murders or aiding and abetting Joe Pesci being called a clown. Chris Chase, For The Win, "11 biggest scandals in sports gambling history," 16 May 2018 Mamie and Meryl have appeared in three films together, while Grace nabbed her first acting credit portraying a younger version of her mom’s character in The House of Spirits. Aja Hoggatt, EW.com, "All in the family: 20 mother-daughter actresses," 11 May 2018 Ole Miss had a problem with the way Patterson had portrayed the events leading to his transfer. Mark Heim, AL.com, "Shea Patterson talks Ole Miss, Michigan in Paris," 2 May 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

11 Oct 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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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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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