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 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 In that role, Philip, who met every post-war U.S. president apart from Donald Trump, sought to portray himself as working tirelessly in support of his wife. NBC News, "Prince Philip, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99," 9 Apr. 2021 Prosecutors put her on the stand as part of an effort to humanize Floyd in front of the jury and portray him as more than a crime statistic. Steve Karnowski, chicagotribune.com, "Derek Chauvin trial: George Floyd’s girlfriend details their opioid addiction in emotional testimony," 1 Apr. 2021 Sorry, Rick Pitino’s return to the NCAA Tournament is not some feel-good tale of redemption, no matter how others might try to portray it. Paul Newberry, ajc, "Column: Sports always provides a conduit to forgiveness," 19 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for portray

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for portray

Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Portray.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/portray. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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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