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[pawr-trey, pohr-] /pɔrˈtreɪ, poʊr-/
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 forms
portrayable, adjective
portrayer, noun
nonportrayable, adjective
preportray, verb (used with object)
unportrayable, adjective
unportrayed, adjective
1, 2. picture, delineate, limn. See depict. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for portrayed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His joy on finding her is portrayed in a musical greeting of such unbounded rapture that one key will hardly hold it.

    Stars of the Opera Mabel Wagnalls
  • New England and the South have been portrayed by various writers.

  • Tolstoy portrayed the vices of the educated Russian and the evils of wage-slavery which followed the emancipation of the serfs.

    The Critical Game John Albert Macy
  • It was he, the great musician, as he was portrayed in his youthful pictures!

    The Dead Command Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • In one the theologians of the Sorbonne were portrayed to the life, and each in all his proper colors, by an unfriendly pencil.

British Dictionary definitions for portrayed


verb (transitive)
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 Forms
portrayable, adjective
portrayal, noun
portrayer, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for portrayed



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
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