[pawr-trey, pohr-]

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 formspor·tray·a·ble, adjectivepor·tray·er, nounnon·por·tray·a·ble, adjectivepre·por·tray, verb (used with object)un·por·tray·a·ble, adjectiveun·por·trayed, adjective

Synonyms for portray

Synonym study

1, 2. See depict.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for portray

Contemporary Examples of portray

Historical Examples of portray

  • I thought him as true a representative of the people as ever theory could portray.

    Biographical Sketches

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • It is this greatness of soul in Cleopatra which Shakespeare has now to portray.

  • The nature they portray is not human, but super- or subter-human, which you will.

    Another Sheaf

    John Galsworthy

  • Now let us portray the events which preceded the masked bridal.

    The Masked Bridal

    Mrs. Georgie Sheldon

  • They were from a feudalistic world and tried to portray the Aztecs in such terms.


    Dallas McCord Reynolds

British Dictionary definitions for portray


verb (tr)

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 Formsportrayable, adjectiveportrayal, nounportrayer, noun

Word Origin for portray

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

Word Origin and History for portray

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