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[pawr-ten-tuh s, pohr-] /pɔrˈtɛn təs, poʊr-/
of the nature of a portent; momentous.
ominously significant or indicative:
a portentous defeat.
marvelous; amazing; prodigious.
Origin of portentous
1530-40; < Latin portentōsus. See portent, -ous
Related forms
portentously, adverb
portentousness, noun
nonportentous, adjective
nonportentously, adverb
nonportentousness, noun
unportentous, adjective
unportentously, adverb
unportentousness, noun
Can be confused
portentous, pretentious.
1, 2. See ominous. 2. unpropitious, inauspicious, threatening. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for portentous
  • As an explanation for such a portentous mystery, this has to be too mundane.
  • The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.
  • If in fact we are alone, it means that we're not only the heirs to the cosmos, but its guardians; which is a portentous thought.
  • No movie or group of movies should be forced to bear the weight of such portentous moral analyses.
  • The portentous repetition of the book's title signals its iconic status for the movement.
  • His pedantic style is full of parenthetical asides, portentous foreshadowing and rhetorical throat.
  • The occasional lapses into portentous symbolism are inadvertently hilarious.
  • There's little variation in the somber, portentous tone throughout the book.
  • Oh, how portentous is prosperity! How comet-like, it threatens while it shines.
  • It's a portentous spot, itself reason enough for a trip to the other side of the world.
British Dictionary definitions for portentous


of momentous or ominous significance
miraculous, amazing, or awe-inspiring; prodigious
self-important or pompous
Derived Forms
portentously, adverb
portentousness, 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
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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
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