[om-uh-nuh s]


portending evil or harm; foreboding; threatening; inauspicious: an ominous bank of dark clouds.
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

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for ominously

Contemporary Examples of ominously

Historical Examples of ominously

  • “There are individuals of character amongst that lot too,” muttered Ossipon ominously.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • She was with Helen, who had been ominously quiet since the affair was settled.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • "Kindly take back that word 'hangers-on,'" said Helen, ominously calm.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • "You will do as you consider best, of course," she had said, in a voice that was ominously sweet.

    St. Martin's Summer

    Rafael Sabatini

  • "Handsome is as handsome does," replied Mrs. Kemp, ominously.

    Pretty Madcap Dorothy

    Laura Jean Libbey

British Dictionary definitions for ominously



foreboding evil
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 ominously

1590s, from ominous + -ly (2). In earliest use, "of good omen, auspicious;" meaning "of evil omen" first attested 1640s, in Milton.



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper