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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Apr 23, 2006 9:46 am

• portent •

Pronunciation: por-tent • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An omen, a foreshadowing, a sign of a momentous coming event, as the portents of a storm. 2. A thing or person of great or unexpected importance, a wonder, marvel, or a prodigy, as a musical portent who can play all the instruments in an orchestra—at the same time.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the noun of the verb portend. It is a rare in that it is derived from the verb by simply replacing the [d] with a [t]. Actually, these two sounds are identical except that [d] is voiced, uttered while vibrating the vocal cords, and [t] is voiceless—no vocal cord activity. The adjective for this noun is portentous, not to be confused with portentious "pompous, pretentious". You may always use portentful to be safe.

In Play: If you stop to think about it, we really see a lot of portents in our lives: "Maggie's glare was a portent of an evening of unpleasantness for Malcolm after the party." We also see quite a few of the other kinds of portents: "Marlow thinks that an educated professional athlete is something of a portent today, in the age of athletic teams with graduation rates below 20%."

Word History: Today's word is Latin portentum "a portent, sign, omen, monster, marvelous tale" without the neuter ending -um. It turns up in Italian and Spanish as portento. This noun comes from the verb portendere "to foretell," originally meaning "to stretch forward," based on por- (a variant of pro-) "forth, forward" + tendere "to stretch, extend". (We extend our thanks to Tim Ward for his suggestion of today's Good Word and hope it is a portent of more to come.)
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Brazilian dude
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:12 am

It turns up in Italian and Spanish as portento.

And in Portuguese portento, but in none of these languages it has the first acceptation given for English, only the second.

Brazilian dude
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