Definition of portentous in US English:



  • 1Of or like a portent.

    ‘the envelope and its portentous contents’
    • ‘He delights in tracing similarities of metaphor, suggestive accidents of fate, portentous parallels, uncanny coincidences, and unexpected connections.’
    • ‘What made words (or at least particular kinds of words such as oaths) seem so threatening and portentous?’
    • ‘The portentous original plan was to make three trilogies and so far we've been subjected to all three of the middle trilogy and, more recently, two of the first.’
    • ‘An example is the opening scene, in which the portentous water drops and golden filters are far too over-the-top in their attempt to highlight that scene's importance.’
    • ‘If the United Workers Party brass read the portentous signs, none was man enough to call their leader away from his Independence Day preparations and warn him of the gathering storm clouds.’
    • ‘Forget everything you know about TV news - the portentous opening line, the handoff to your anchormate, the ominous toss to the reporter on remote.’
    • ‘Ugly as they are, I'm finding lots of useful material - old commercials, sound effects, peculiar remarks, portentous musical cues.’
    • ‘In fewer than 100 pages, we travel from a haunted garden to the very gates of hell, via ominous encounters, portentous conversations and moments of absurd levity.’
    • ‘Right from the portentous and pretentious but utterly muddled opening voice-over that quite inadequately sets the stage, this movie is an embarrassment of unintentional laughs.’
    • ‘Miller had the advantage of having seen the play in the early 90s, when it was momentous and portentous.’
    • ‘The idiocy, and it is perennial, is to look at polls three or six or nine months out and make these pretentious and portentous conclusions before any human being has voted.’
    • ‘As if fulfilling the portentous predictions of some medieval soothsayer, the first year of this new century has witnessed an unprecedented catalogue of warnings of the cumulative effects of climate change.’
    • ‘It starts out OK, with a portentous and intriguing set up, but gets steadily cheesier and more melodramatic, until the author pulls out a genuine deus ex machina for the ending.’
    • ‘The scene is grim and portentous, and a sense of foreboding looms.’
    • ‘As the portentous millennium approached, evangelical thoughts turned to the long-awaited Second Coming of Christ and thence to Armageddon.’
    • ‘Friedman, an unalloyed idealist when it comes to capitalism, and concomitantly (he supposes) a rampant technophile, is suddenly sober and portentous when it comes to Iraq.’
    • ‘The book opens with a haunting and portentous prologue that simultaneously catalyses the twin narrative strands of the novel, presages its thematic concerns and gives a first taste of the dark symbolism with which it is heavily laden.’
    • ‘The first half of the movie is full of dreadful portentous moments that either go nowhere or end in cheap shocks.’
    • ‘The film blends documentary and fiction, but the attempts at actual documentary, via old photos and a portentous narration, aren't worth the trouble.’
    • ‘His recent momentous, and portentous, decision to say that he doesn't need any more of our money, and that he'll be giving his future material away, will have repercussions for countless artists in later years.’
    ominous, warning, foreshadowing, predictive, premonitory, prognosticatory, momentous, fateful
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    1. 1.1 Done in a pompously or overly solemn manner so as to impress.
      ‘the author's portentous moralizings’
      • ‘His rhetoric is humorless and portentous - he always sounds to me like a slightly demented Episcopal bishop.’
      • ‘Don't go getting the impression that Demonstration is at all pompous or portentous, though.’
      • ‘Lou gently lay Bev's hand back on the mattress and bowed his head with a solemnity that Nora thought both tender and portentous.’
      • ‘Music that has a megalomaniac quality, that creates a portentous grandiosity without much in the way of inner self-reflexivity.’
      • ‘This is all very solemn and portentous, but it's impossible to shake the feeling this is a virtuoso example of preaching to the converted.’
      • ‘The judging panel decried previous Booker choices as being ‘pompous, portentous and pretentious’, and promoted Waters and her fellow nominees as the writers truly deserving of attention.’
      • ‘While we study the pictures we are assaulted by an overblown, portentous, bombastic Bernard Herrmann score that borders on self-parody.’
      pompous, bombastic, self-important, pontifical, ponderous, solemn, sonorous, grandiloquent, declamatory, overblown, overripe, inflated, rhetorical, oratorical
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