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
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Unscramble the letters to create a synonym of ominous: LEBFLUA.VIEW THE ANSWER
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