Word of the Day

Saturday, May 06, 2000


\por-TEN-tus\ , adjective;
Foreboding; foreshadowing, especially foreshadowing ill; ominous.
Marvelous; prodigious; wonderful; as, a beast of portentous size.
This victory is without doubt a very special and portentous gift of the gods, she said, "for I believe that there now stands before you the one leader who is the single most qualified to lead us to the peace we long for."
-- Seth Mydans, "Wounded Sri Lankan Sees 'Gift of Gods' in Re-election.", New York Times, December 23, 1999
Death of a Salesman has been debunked as a didactic commentary on the bankruptcy of the American dream of success, while Miller has been dismissed as an epigone of Ibsenism, a preachy, pompous and, yes, portentous writer who belongs, like Clifford Odets and Lillian Hellman, to a middlebrow, pre-modernist past.
-- Michiko Kakutani, "Death of a Salesman': A Salesman WhoTranscends Time.", New York Times, February 7, 1999
Portentous is from Latin portentosus, from portendere, to stretch out before or into the future, to predict, from por- (variant of pro-), before + tendere, to stretch out.
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