ominous

adjective
om·​i·​nous | \ ˈä-mə-nəs How to pronounce ominous (audio) \

Essential Meaning of ominous

: suggesting that something bad is going to happen in the future ominous clouds an ominous threat of war He spoke in ominous tones.

Full Definition of ominous

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

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Other Words from ominous

ominously adverb
ominousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for ominous

ominous, portentous, fateful mean having a menacing or threatening aspect. ominous implies having a menacing, alarming character foreshadowing evil or disaster. ominous rumblings from the volcano portentous suggests being frighteningly big or impressive but now seldom definitely connotes forewarning of calamity. an eerie and portentous stillness fateful suggests being of momentous or decisive importance. the fateful conference that led to war

The Difference Between Ominous, Portentous, and Fateful

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.

Examples of ominous in a Sentence

Not many sets of initials became universally recognizable during the twentieth century, and those that did often had ominous overtones, from SS to KGB. — Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Atlantic, March 2001 While politicians and multinational corporations extol the virtues of NAFTA … the ominous curtain is already up in a six-mile section at the border crossing at Mexicali … — Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit, 1996 Fighting against sensations that sought to claim him, he moved nervously and the note in his hand rattled with a dry and ominous whisper. — Richard Wright, Rite of Passage, 1994 Arranged in two long and ominous rows, the branding irons dangled from the ceiling in the center of the room, suggesting some sort of fence or jail … — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, May 1993 an ominous threat of war He spoke in ominous tones.
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Recent Examples on the Web Also ominous, though, is that a small group of far-left environmental groups have started to strike the same note. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 21 Sep. 2021 There’s no ominous music, no telltale fin breaking the surface as the powerful silhouette of a great white shark glides alongside the small tour boat off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. BostonGlobe.com, 6 Sep. 2021 Moonlight is all that’s left for our heroine, owls hoot, and vaguely ominous music plays in the background. Renee Diresta, Wired, 28 Aug. 2021 The couple is hopeful about their new place, but the ominous background music begs to differ. Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, 26 Aug. 2021 Shouts and sounds of commotion are also heard while ominous music plays. Antonio Planas, NBC News, 24 Aug. 2021 The slickly produced movie trailer, set to ominous music, cuts from scenes of the 2020 election to clips of allies of former president Donald Trump describing a vast conspiracy to steal the White House. Anchorage Daily News, 25 June 2021 More ominous for the Sox than the egg laid by Eovaldi was the formidable mountain who took the mound against him. BostonGlobe.com, 25 Sep. 2021 And as drought conditions worsen in Northern California, an already dire situation is only getting more ominous. Aya Elamroussi, CNN, 20 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ominous.' 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 ominous

1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ominous

see omen

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Time Traveler for ominous

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The first known use of ominous was in 1580

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Dictionary Entries Near ominous

omination

ominous

omissibility

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ominous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ominous. Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for ominous

ominous

adjective
om·​i·​nous | \ ˈä-mə-nəs How to pronounce ominous (audio) \

Kids Definition of ominous

: considered a sign of evil or trouble to come … the clouds there seemed to be growing darker, massing in ominous grey mounds with a yellowish tinge.— Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising

Other Words from ominous

ominously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on ominous

Nglish: Translation of ominous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ominous for Arabic Speakers

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