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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 portraying
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Naturally, with such a disposition, he is entirely incapable of portraying a true woman.

    English Literature William J. Long
  • "Those devouring eyes and that portraying hand," Emerson says.

    Fresh Fields John Burroughs
  • But they will also serve another purpose in portraying one striking and important aspect in which these processes are alike.

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

  • And this man, so talented in portraying the human face, was powerless on it to read the breaking heart!

    Miles Tremenhere, Vol 2 of 2 Annette Marie Maillard
British Dictionary definitions for portraying


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 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
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