[om-uh-nuh s]
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  1. portending evil or harm; foreboding; threatening; inauspicious: an ominous bank of dark clouds.
  2. indicating the nature of a future event, for good or evil; having the significance of an omen; being a portent: Some of these events were immediately ominous, while others only later revealed themselves as such.

Origin of ominous

1580–90; < Latin ōminōsus portentous, equivalent to ōmin- (stem of ōmen) omen + -ōsus -ous
Related formsom·i·nous·ly, adverbom·i·nous·ness, nounun·om·i·nous, adjectiveun·om·i·nous·ly, adverbun·om·i·nous·ness, noun

Synonyms for ominous

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Ominous, portentous, threatening, menacing, fateful are adjectives describing that which forebodes a serious, significant, and often harmful outcome. Ominous, derived from omen “a predictor of outcomes,” usually suggests evil or damaging eventualities: ominous storm clouds; an ominous silence. Portentous, although it may suggest evil results, often stresses a momentous or very important outcome: a portentous moment in history; a portentous escalation of hostilities. Threatening may suggest calamity or great harm but sometimes mere unpleasantness: a threatening rumble from the volcano; A threatening look from his brother caused him to quickly change the subject. Menacing always suggests serious damage as an outcome: a disease menacing the entire population; He advanced with a menacing swagger. Fateful most often stresses the great or decisive importance of what it describes: a fateful encounter between two future leaders; a fateful day that changed our world. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ominous

Contemporary Examples of ominous

Historical Examples of ominous

  • The spectacle as night fell was strange, ominous, but not unpicturesque.

  • It seemed an extraordinary thing, an ominous object, a sign.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • At this ominous sight, I instinctively seized the bitts for protection.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • This made all the inhabitants of that melancholy and ominous apartment.

    Leila, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • An ominous leave-taking was his, and calamity was there to greet him home again.

    Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew

    Josephine Preston Peabody

British Dictionary definitions for ominous


  1. foreboding evil
  2. serving as or having significance as an omen
Derived Formsominously, adverbominousness, noun

Word Origin for ominous

C16: from Latin ōminōsus, from omen
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

Word Origin and History for ominous

1580s, from Latin ominosus "full of foreboding," from omen (genitive ominis) "foreboding" (see omen). Related: Ominousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper