The black crows slowly circling the front entrance to your office building at 6:00 am may have a portentous quality, meaning it seems like they’re an omen indicating something bad will happen.

Use the adjective portentous to describe something that seems to be a sign related to a future event — generally an ominous sign. Something that is portentous often seems to hint at or warn of a future disaster. For example, in a movie ominous music playing in the background while someone turns a dark corner can have a portentous quality, predicting doom for the hapless character.

Definitions of portentous
  1. adjective
    of momentous or ominous significance
    “"such a raised all my curiosity"- Herman Melville”
    synonyms: prodigious
    important, significant
    important in effect or meaning
  2. adjective
    ominously prophetic
    synonyms: fateful, foreboding
    prophetic, prophetical
    foretelling events as if by supernatural intervention
  3. adjective
    puffed up with vanity
    synonyms: grandiloquent, overblown, pompous, pontifical
    making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction
Commonly confused words

pretentious / portentous

Fake mobsters in suits and spats are pretentious. But a horse head in your bed? That's portentous. And also, call the police.

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