Ask Difference

Portend vs. Portent — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 25, 2024
Portend is a verb meaning to signal or warn of an upcoming event, especially something significant or calamitous, while portent is a noun referring to the sign or warning itself, often indicating a future event.
Portend vs. Portent — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Portend and Portent


Key Differences

Portend involves the act of predicting or indicating a future event, particularly something significant or disastrous. It is used to describe actions or occurrences that suggest something will happen in the future. On the other hand, portent is the sign or omen that is being indicated, often carrying a sense of foreboding or implication of future events.
While portend is about the action of forewarning or foreshadowing through signs or omens, portent is the manifestation of those signs or omens themselves. Portends are about the act of signaling ahead, whereas portents are the signals or symbols that are interpreted.
Portend is often used in a context where there is an analysis or interpretation of events as warnings or indications of what is to come. Conversely, portent is used when discussing the sign, omen, or indicator itself, without necessarily implying the action of predicting or interpreting these signs.
In literature, to portend is to contribute to the narrative technique of foreshadowing, providing clues or hints to the reader about future plot developments. Portent, however, would be the actual clue or hint within the narrative that suggests future events, serving as a key element of thematic development.
The process of something being portended often involves interpretation and perception, requiring someone to recognize and analyze the signs. Portents, however, exist as symbols or events that, regardless of interpretation, are inherently indicative of future possibilities or outcomes.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech



To signal, indicate, or warn of a future event, especially one that is significant or calamitous.
A sign, warning, or indication of a future event, often significant or calamitous.


Involves action or the process of forecasting.
Refers to the sign or symbol itself.


Analytical, interpretive; suggests an active role in prediction.
Descriptive, symbolic; focuses on the existence or observation of the sign.


"The economist portends a recession based on current market trends."
"The appearance of the comet was seen as a portent of doom."

Compare with Definitions


To warn or signal impending danger or fortune.
An increase in natural disasters portends significant climate change.


A phenomenon that is believed to foretell or signal a future event.
The rare bird's appearance is seen as a portent of good luck.


To indicate or signal a future event, especially something bad or calamitous.
Dark clouds portend a storm.


A sign or warning that something, typically something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen.
The eclipse was taken as a portent of disaster.


To foreshadow or predict through signs or omens.
The prophecy portended the king's downfall.


An omen or prophetic sign of the future.
Ancient civilizations often saw comets as portents of significant change.


The act of forecasting or predicting future events based on current signs.
The behavior of birds can sometimes portend changes in weather.


A remarkable or significant event that indicates the likelihood of future events.
The sudden peace in the region was a portent of hopeful change.


To suggest or hint at something that is to come.
The sudden drop in stock prices portends economic instability.


An indication or hint of something about to happen, especially something significant.
The unusual silence was a portent of the storm to come.


Be a sign or warning that (something, especially something momentous or calamitous) is likely to happen
The eclipses portend some major events


A sign or warning that a momentous or calamitous event is likely to happen
Many birds are regarded as being portents of death


To serve as an omen or a warning of; presage
Black clouds that portend a storm.


An exceptional or wonderful person or thing
What portent can be greater than a pious notary?


To indicate by prediction; forecast
Leading economic indicators that portend a recession.


An indication of something important or calamitous about to occur; an omen.


(transitive) To serve as a warning or omen of.


Prophetic or threatening significance
Signs full of portent.


(transitive) To signify; to denote.
Let it be known that the Rapture portends the End of Days.


(Archaic) Something amazing or marvelous; a prodigy.


To indicate (events, misfortunes, etc.) as in future; to foreshow; to foretoken; to bode; - now used esp. of unpropitious signs.
Many signs portended a dark and stormy day.


Something that portends an event about to occur, especially an unfortunate or evil event; an omen.
It was a portent of things to come.


To stretch out before.


A portending; significance
A howl of dire portent


Indicate by signs;
These signs bode bad news


Something regarded as portentous; a marvel; prodigy.


That which portends, or foretoken; esp., that which portends evil; a sign of coming calamity; an omen; a sign.
My loss by dire portents the god foretold.


A sign of something about to happen;
He looked for an omen before going into battle

Common Curiosities

Is a portent always negative?

While often associated with ominous or calamitous events, portents can sometimes signify positive changes or outcomes.

What is a portent?

A portent is a sign, warning, or indication that something, often of great importance or disaster, is likely to happen.

What does it mean to portend?

To portend means to give a sign or warning of a future event, particularly something significant or calamitous.

How can something portend a future event?

Something portends a future event by serving as an indicator or warning sign, often based on interpretation of patterns or anomalies.

Can a person be a portent?

While typically a portent is an event or sign, metaphorically, a person's actions or presence could be considered a portent if they significantly indicate or symbolize future events.

How do you use portend in a sentence?

"Economic indicators portend a significant shift in the market."

Can animals portend events?

In folklore and some cultural beliefs, animal behavior is often interpreted as portending natural events, like weather changes.

What's the difference between a portent and an omen?

A portent is a sign or warning of a future event, often with significant implications, while an omen is a phenomenon considered to signal good or bad luck, with portents generally being more specific in their indications of future events.

How do you use portent in a sentence?

"The sudden calmness in the air was a portent of the approaching storm."

How do portents influence human behavior?

Portents can influence human behavior by causing people to take precautions, make changes, or seek further signs, based on the anticipation of future events they suggest.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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