Word of the Day : March 9, 2017


adjective AH-muh-nus


: being or exhibiting an omen : portentous; especially : foreboding or foreshadowing evil : inauspicious

Did You Know?

Ominous didn't always mean "foreshadowing evil." If you look closely, you can see the omen in ominous, which gave it the original meaning of "presaging events to come"—whether good or bad. It is ultimately derived from the Latin word omen, which is both an ancestor and a synonym of our omen. Today, however, ominous tends to suggest a menacing or threatening aspect. Its synonyms portentous and fateful are used similarly, but ominous is the most menacing of the three. It implies an alarming character that foreshadows evil or disaster. Portentous suggests being frighteningly big or impressive, but seldom gives a definite forewarning of calamity. Fateful implies that something is of momentous or decisive importance.


Our fears about the picnic being cancelled were heightened by the sight of dark, ominous clouds appearing over the horizon.

"An ominous week-long standoff between the government and its rogue first vice president is … dominating talk in the edgy Afghan capital." — Pamela Constable, The Washington Post, 29 Jan. 2017

Name That Synonym

Unscramble the letters to create a synonym of ominous: LEBFLUA.



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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