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[om-uh-nuh s] /ˈɒm ə nəs/
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 forms
ominously, adverb
ominousness, noun
unominous, adjective
unominously, adverb
unominousness, noun
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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ominously
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Never, he flattered himself, had he seen anything so gregariously ugly—operatively, ominously so cruel.

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

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • "We must just right-about face, and get back to New York," said the captain, ominously.

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

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • Then every thing once more became dark and gloomy and ominously still.

British Dictionary definitions for ominously


foreboding evil
serving as or having significance as an omen
Derived Forms
ominously, adverb
ominousness, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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