[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 portraying

Contemporary Examples of portraying

Historical Examples of portraying

  • He began by portraying in ardent language the sufferings he had undergone.

  • "Those devouring eyes and that portraying hand," Emerson says.

    Fresh Fields

    John Burroughs

  • He saw that she was portraying what she had in her mind's eye.

  • In this work his individual manner of portraying a face is entirely formed.

    Auguste Rodin

    Rainer Maria Rilke

  • But they are useless from the point of view intended, as portraying a man.

    The Christ Myth

    Arthur Drews

British Dictionary definitions for portraying


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 portraying



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