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[pawr-trey, pohr-] /pɔrˈtreɪ, poʊr-/
verb (used with object)
to make a likeness of by drawing, painting, carving, or the like.
to depict in words; describe graphically.
to represent dramatically, as on the stage:
He portrayed Napoleon in the play.
Origin of portray
1300-50; Middle English portrayen < Middle French portraire < Late Latin prōtrahere to depict, Latin: to draw forth, equivalent to prō- pro-1 + trahere to draw
Related forms
portrayable, adjective
portrayer, noun
nonportrayable, adjective
preportray, verb (used with object)
unportrayable, adjective
unportrayed, adjective
1, 2. picture, delineate, limn.
Synonym Study
1, 2. See depict. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for portrayed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I have been told that never was there an Englishman on earth like the one I portrayed in my novel.

    Tales of Fishes Zane Grey
  • Her disposition was sweet, and was portrayed in her countenance.

    The Settlers in Canada

    Frederick Marryat
  • It seemed to me that the whole man was portrayed in these brief remarks.

  • If I have portrayed the dark side of slavery, I also have painted the bright side.

    Behind the Scenes Elizabeth Keckley
  • Would that Armstrong could here be portrayed as he appeared in life.

    The Negro and the Nation George S. Merriam
British Dictionary definitions for portrayed


verb (transitive)
to represent in a painting, drawing, sculpture, etc; make a portrait of
to make a verbal picture of; depict in words
to play the part of (a character) in a play or film
Derived Forms
portrayable, adjective
portrayal, noun
portrayer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French portraire to depict, from Latin prōtrahere to drag forth, bring to light, from pro-1 + trahere to drag
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for portrayed



mid-13c., "to draw, paint" (something), from Anglo-French purtraire, Old French portraire "to draw, to paint, portray" (12c.), literally "trace, draw forth," from por- "forth" (from Latin pro-; see pro-) + traire "trace, draw," from Latin trahere "to drag, draw" (see tract (n.1)). Meaning "depict in words, describe" is from late 14c. Related: Portrayed; portraying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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