Word of the Day Archive
Saturday April 19, 2008
portent \POR-tent\, noun:
1. A sign of a coming event or calamity; an omen.
2. Prophetic or menacing significance.
3. Something amazing; a marvel.
A comet that year was taken as a portent of some imminent but incalculable change.
-- Patrick Smith, Japan: A Reinterpretation
To Mohammed, the relentless sandstorm was foreboding, a portent of divine will.
-- Anthony Shadid, "In an Ominous Sky, a City Divines Its Fate", Washington Post, March 26, 2003
For the blood-stained rivals, it's a dignified moment, filled with portent.
-- Michelle Levander, "In a Different World", Time, June 4, 2001
Portent comes from Latin portentum, from portendere, "to stretch out before or into the future, to predict," from por- (variant of pro-), "before" + tendere, "to stretch out." Related words include portend, "to give an omen or sign of," and portentous, "ominous, foreboding."