[pawr-ten-tuh s, pohr-]


of the nature of a portent; momentous.
ominously significant or indicative: a portentous defeat.
marvelous; amazing; prodigious.

Origin of portentous

From the Latin word portentōsus, dating back to 1530–40. See portent, -ous
Related formspor·ten·tous·ly, adverbpor·ten·tous·ness, nounnon·por·ten·tous, adjectivenon·por·ten·tous·ly, adverbnon·por·ten·tous·ness, nounun·por·ten·tous, adjectiveun·por·ten·tous·ly, adverbun·por·ten·tous·ness, noun
Can be confusedportentous pretentious

Synonyms for portentous

1, 2. See ominous. 2. unpropitious, inauspicious, threatening.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for portentous

Contemporary Examples of portentous

Historical Examples of portentous

  • Naming him was a portentous proceeding and one not to be lightly gone about.

    The Depot Master

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • I was as a man sapped of all strength by some portentous struggle.

    The Strolling Saint

    Raphael Sabatini

  • He delivered himself of this long speech with an air of portentous gravity.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • The most portentous crisis in the history of the human family has just passed.

    Buffalo Bill's Spy Trailer

    Colonel Prentiss Ingraham

  • Therefore he drew him aside in a manner as portentous and ingratiating as he could make it.

    The Golden Woman

    Ridgwell Cullum

British Dictionary definitions for portentous



of momentous or ominous significance
miraculous, amazing, or awe-inspiring; prodigious
self-important or pompous
Derived Formsportentously, adverbportentousness, noun
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 portentous

1540s, from Latin portentosus "monstrous, marvelous, threatening," from portentem "portent" (see portend). Related: Portentously.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper