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Portentous   /pɔrtˈɛntəs/   Listen
Portentous

adjective
1.
Of momentous or ominous significance.  Synonym: prodigious.  "A prodigious vision"
2.
Ominously prophetic.  Synonyms: fateful, foreboding.
3.
Puffed up with vanity.  Synonyms: grandiloquent, overblown, pompous, pontifical.  "Overblown oratory" , "A pompous speech" , "Pseudo-scientific gobbledygook and pontifical hooey"






WordNet 3.0 © 2010 Princeton University








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"Portentous" Quotes from Famous Books



... as she gave me the money. At this instant, a jerk at my elbow came near causing me to drop the silver. It was Jason, who had taken this liberty, and who now led me aside with a earnestness of manner it was not usual for him to exhibit. I saw by the portentous look of the pedagogue's countenance, and his swelling manner, that something extraordinary was on his mind, and waited with some little curiosity to learn what ...
— Satanstoe • James Fenimore Cooper

... serieux has not led to the formation of any school of writers adopting it and working it out, or to the production of any masterpiece that has held its ground, as has happened in tragedy, comedy, and farce. Beaumarchais, who at last achieved such a dazzling and portentous success by one dramatic masterpiece, began his career as a playwright by following the vein of The Father of the Family; but The Marriage of Figaro, though not without strong traces of Diderotian sentiment in pungent application, yet is in ...
— Diderot and the Encyclopaedists (Vol 1 of 2) • John Morley

... his library one afternoon when there came a knock at the door; and being bidden to enter, the portiere was drawn aside and old Hannah appeared, her face wearing an unusually solemn and portentous expression. ...
— Bessie Bradford's Prize • Joanna H. Mathews

... a meal of homely succulence, in an unfashionable tavern, in a back street, where the wine was sound, the cutlets tender, and the serving-maid rosy. Then I walked along—for a mile, it seemed—through a dreary, gray grand rue, where the sunshine was hot, the odors portentous, and the doorsteps garnished with aged fishwives, retired from business, whose plaited linen coifs looked picturesquely white, and their faces picturesquely brown. I inspected the harbor and its goodly basin—with nothing in it—and certain pink and blue houses, which surround ...
— The Galaxy - Vol. 23, No. 1 • Various

... only,—but that one thing is worth a thousand;—they have energy. In France, all things being put into an universal ferment, in the decomposition of society, no man comes forward but by his spirit of enterprise and the vigor of his mind. If we meet this dreadful and portentous energy, restrained by no consideration of God or man, that is always vigilant, always on the attack, that allows itself no repose, and suffers none to rest an hour with impunity,—if we meet this energy with poor commonplace proceeding, ...
— The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. IV. (of 12) • Edmund Burke

... countenance bright, Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess armed, Out of thy head I sprung. Amazement seized All th' host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid At first, and called me Sin, and for a sign Portentous held me; but, familiar grown, I pleased, and with attractive graces won The most averse—thee chiefly, who, full oft Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing, Becam'st enamoured; and such joy thou took'st With me in secret that my womb conceived A growing ...
— Paradise Lost • John Milton

... foretold to Phoebus, Phoebus Apollo to me, I eldest born of the Furies reveal to you. Italy is your goal; wooing the winds you shall go to Italy, and enter her harbours unhindered. Yet shall you not wall round your ordained city, ere this murderous outrage on us compel you, in portentous hunger, to eat your tables with ...
— The Aeneid of Virgil • Virgil

... a brief but complete summary of all that he and Mr. Portlethorpe had just talked over. "You now see how matters are," he concluded, at the end of his epitome, during his delivery of which the lady had gradually grown more and more portentous of ...
— Dead Men's Money • J. S. Fletcher

... Mejia's left flank. It was really a charge in line, albeit a very broken line, every man riding as hard as he could and fighting for his own land. All were armed with spears, the longest, as I afterward learned, being wielded by Colombian gauchos. These portentous weapons, fully fourteen feet long, were held in both hands, the reins being meanwhile placed on the knees, and the horses guided by voice and spur. The Spaniards seemed terribly afraid of them, as well they might be, ...
— Mr. Fortescue • William Westall

... to imagine any connexion between this portentous scene and the purpose that I had meditated, yet a belief of this connexion, though wavering and obscure, lurked in my mind; something more than a coincidence merely casual, appeared to have subsisted between ...
— Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist - (A Fragment) • Charles Brockden Brown

... I dreamed of nothing else, day or night. Waking, I walked arm-in-arm with a clown, and cracked a portentous whip to the brave music of a band. Sleeping, I pursued—perched astride of a coal-black horse—a princess all gauze and spangles, who always managed to keep just one unattainable length ahead. In the early morning Harold and I, once fully awake, cross-examined each other as to the possibilities ...
— Dream Days • Kenneth Grahame

... golden flesh of Eve, half-hidden among laurels, as she stretches forth the fruit of the Fall to shrinking Adam. No one but Tintoretto, till we come to Blake, could have imagined yonder Jonah, summoned by the beck of God from the whale's belly. The monstrous fish rolls over in the ocean, blowing portentous vapour from his trump-shaped nostril. The prophet's beard descends upon his naked breast in hoary ringlets to the girdle. He has forgotten the past peril of the deep, although the whale's jaws yawn around him. Between him and the outstretched finger of Jehovah ...
— New Italian sketches • John Addington Symonds

... of faces, all turned toward the same object but with expressions subtly various, I spent my days, studying them all, and finding (here has been nature's consolation to me) relief from my own thoughts in an investigation of the mind of others. The portentous pretence on which we were engaged needed perhaps a god to laugh at it, but the smaller points were within the sphere of human ridicule; with them there was no danger of amusement suffering a sudden death, and a swift resurrection in the ...
— The King's Mirror • Anthony Hope

... was frequently understood that she was privately devoted to her kindred, she never attempted to impose them on society, and it was striking that, though in some of her manifestations a bore, she was at her worst less of a bore than they. They were almost always solemn and portentous, and they were for the most part of a deathly respectability. She wasn't necessarily snobbish, unless it was snobbish to want the best. She didn't cringe, she didn't make herself smaller than she was; she took ...
— Pandora • Henry James

... negro was arrayed in a surprisingly new suit of blue cloth with a portentous white waistcoat and an enormous crumpled white cravat, that gave him the appearance of suffering from a glandular swelling. His manner had, it seemed to Paul, advanced in exaggeration with his clothes. Dusting a chair and offering it to the visitor, ...
— A Ward of the Golden Gate • Bret Harte

... its proper relation with all the other qualities. Look at the terrific bombast which preceded him,—the mighty efforts of mighty men to draw music or the power of sound into their art; Hieronymo is like some portentous convulsion of Nature,—the upheaval of a new geological era. The writers felt that there must be style suited to passion, and that they must attain it,—but how? By artificial pomp?—or by yielding with artful reserve to the ...
— Atlantic Monthly, Volume 3, No. 20, June, 1859 • Various

... respectable household through the country. Many a squire, many a parson, many a farmer was grieved for Mr. Daubeny when the words had been explained to him, who did not for a moment think that the words could be portentous as to the great Conservative party. But Mr. Ratler remembered Catholic emancipation, had himself been in the House when the Corn Laws were repealed, and had been nearly broken-hearted when household ...
— Phineas Redux • Anthony Trollope

... he is not one of the 'genial' school, whose indiscriminate benevolence exudes over all that they touch. There is nothing mawkish in his philanthropy. Pope was, if anything, too good a hater; 'the portentous cub never forgives,' said Bentley; but kindliness is all the more impressive when not too widely diffused. Add to this his hearty contempt for pomposities, humbugs, and stupidities of all kinds, and above all ...
— Hours in a Library, Volume I. (of III.) • Leslie Stephen

... as a general thing, struck Rowland as the key-note of her character, but she had more than once given him a suggestion of an unfathomable power of calculation, and her silence now had something which it is hardly extravagant to call portentous. He had of course asked himself how far it was questionable taste to inform an unprotected girl, for the needs of a cause, that another man admired her; the thing, superficially, had an uncomfortable analogy with ...
— Roderick Hudson • Henry James

... was Wiggs's Good Day. The legend of it was handed down for years afterwards in Euralia. It got into all the Calendars—July 20th it was—marked with a red star; in Roger's portentous volumes it had a chapter devoted to it. There was some talk about it being made into a public holiday, he tells us, but this fell through. Euralian mothers used to scold their naughty children with the words, "Why can't ...
— Once on a Time • A. A. Milne

... thought that that same portentous miracle performed on Lazarus is one day to be performed on ourselves. Wherever we repose—whether, as he did, in the quiet churchyard of our native village, or in the midst of the city's crowded cemetery, ...
— Memories of Bethany • John Ross Macduff

... where is the pathos, the simplicity, the purple splendour of Ouida's manner, or manners? No, the spirit of the world, mirroring itself in the minds of individuals, simpered, and that simper was Lady Fanny Flummery. But it did many things more portentous than simpering, when ...
— Essays in Little • Andrew Lang

... and in 1793 the execution of the French king and queen and the atrocities of the Reign of Terror united all but the radicals in support of the war against France in which England joined with the other European countries. During the twenty years of struggle that followed the portentous figure of Napoleon soon appeared, though only as Burke was dying, and to oppose and finally to suppress him became the duty of all Englishmen, a duty not only to ...
— A History of English Literature • Robert Huntington Fletcher

... can write as no one has ever written in praise of Titian (so that his very finest sentence describes a picture of Titian) and can instantly detect and minutely expose the swollen contemporary delusion of a would-be Michael Angelo, the portentous Martin. ...
— Figures of Several Centuries • Arthur Symons

... absolutely insignificant in comparison therewith. If, then, this stupendous sphere rotated once in twenty-four hours, the speed with which the movement of some of the stars must be executed would be so portentous as to seem well-nigh impossible. It would, therefore, seem much simpler on this ground to adopt the other alternative, and to suppose the diurnal movements were due to the rotation of the earth. Here Ptolemy saw, or at all events fancied he saw, objections of the weightiest description. ...
— Great Astronomers • R. S. Ball

... up, broad awake, the instant that Cunningham's hand touched my shoulder, and had at once become conscious of the very extraordinary and portentous aspect of the sky; it was therefore quite unnecessary for me to ask what he meant. When, soon after the expiration of the second dog-watch, I had stretched myself out and fallen asleep on the wheel grating, the darkness had been as opaque as that of Egypt when Moses stretched forth his hand ...
— Turned Adrift • Harry Collingwood

... a portentous proceeding and one not to be lightly gone about. Sophronia, who was a Methodist by descent and early confirmation, was of the opinion that the child ...
— The Depot Master • Joseph C. Lincoln

... at the gate announced her coming. She rode on a little ambling horse beside her brother Saint-Pol. With them were the portentous old lady, Dame Gudule, William des Barres, a very fine French knight, Nicholas d'Eu, and a young boy called Eloy de Mont-Luc, a cousin of Jehane's, to bear her train. The gossips at the gate called her a wooden ...
— The Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay • Maurice Hewlett

... in these dismays and in this darkness, to divert attention to the international disturbances which now were rumbling across the newspapers in portentous and enormous headlines. Ireland was pressed away. It was all Europe now—thrones, chancelleries, councils, armies. He tried to say, "What of it?" Many in Great Britain tried to say, "What of it?" Crises and deadlocks again! Meaningless and empty words, for months and years past worked ...
— If Winter Comes • A.S.M. Hutchinson

... another went further on to the bread-room, where she might even be permitted to cut bread with the bread-cutting machine. Dessert was always kept in the remote apartment where Dominick Duckett presided, strumming a guitar, while his black face had a portentous gravity as he assigned the desserts for each table. What an ordeal it was for shy freshmen to rise and walk the length of the dining-room! How many tables were kept waiting for the next course while errant students surveyed the sunset through the kitchen ...
— The Story of Wellesley • Florence Converse

... everything; then it meant disappointment to a score of ragged urchins, now it meant two hundred boys and girls, the spirits of a thousand gone before and the hopes of thousands to come. In her imagination the significance of these half dozen gleaming buildings perched aloft seemed portentous—big with the destiny not simply of a county and a State, but of a race—a nation—a world. It was God's own ...
— The Quest of the Silver Fleece - A Novel • W. E. B. Du Bois

... the point of alarm. It looked out from the wasted face, at once—to her seeing—exquisite and austere, reaching forward, keenly curious of all death should reveal, unmoved, yet instinct with the brilliance, the mirthfulness even, of impending portentous adventure. ...
— Deadham Hard • Lucas Malet

... surprised conspirators. Major Carter, I'll have to claim your escort this morning. Casimir is still asleep. I'm afraid Lady Natalie danced him to death last night, the will-o'-the-wisp. His Majesty has his duties for some hours to come, as I can tell by that portentous frown on Sobieska's face. I, alone, once so busy, now find time hanging heavy on my hands. ...
— Trusia - A Princess of Krovitch • Davis Brinton

... now Leslie's watch below, and in the ordinary course of events he would have retired to his cabin for the purpose of securing an hour or two of rest. But, with such a lowering and portentous sky as that overhead, he scarcely felt justified in entrusting the carpenter with the sole responsibility and care of the brig for so long a time; and he accordingly accompanied ...
— Dick Leslie's Luck - A Story of Shipwreck and Adventure • Harry Collingwood

... white, and then to portentous blackness. The subject was of all others the one least likely ...
— Phoebe, Junior • Mrs [Margaret] Oliphant

... amid the hush, The restless current's rush, The Neva murmuring through his crystal zone: A voice portentous, deep, To charm a monarch's sleep With dreams of power ...
— The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 13, No. 80, June, 1864 • Various

... somehow never within speaking distance. He heard with relief that they had not gone—but with dread as well. Keen excitement worked in him underground. He slept badly. Like a schoolboy, he waited for the summons to an important examination that involved portentous issues, and contradictory emotions disturbed his ...
— Four Weird Tales • Algernon Blackwood

... street where it descends to the business section, a vision of tremendous destruction, like a painted picture, opened before my eyes. I saw fires on the water front, fires in the commercial district and also portentous columns of smoke hovering over the southern part of the city. Then like a blow in the face came the realization that all fire fighting facilities were nil owing to the lack of water. One short hour previous, ...
— The Spirit of 1906 • George W. Brooks

... same religion, the same habits, the same manners, and imbued with the same opinions, propagated under the same forms. The rest is uncertain, but this is certain; and it is a fact new to the world, a fact fraught with such portentous consequences as to baffle the ...
— The Fifteen Decisive Battles of The World From Marathon to Waterloo • Sir Edward Creasy, M.A.

... had begged a morsel of bread and a cup of water for his wayworn child,—his final farewell to the Old World at the Canaries,—his entrance upon the trade winds, which then, for the first time, filled a European sail,—the portentous variation of the needle, never before observed, the fearful course westward and westward, day after day, and night after night, over the unknown ocean, the mutinous and ill-appeased crew; at length, when hope had turned to despair in every heart but one, the tokens of land,—the cloud-banks on the ...
— The American Union Speaker • John D. Philbrick

... a bedroom-candlestick; in the other, with the steadiness of a dragoon, a horse-pistol. She was wound about in shawls which did not wholly conceal the candid fabric of her nightdress, and surmounted by a nightcap of portentous architecture. Thus accoutred, she made her entrance; laid down the candle and pistol, as no longer called for; looked about the room with a silence more eloquent than oaths; and then, in a thrilling voice—"To whom have I the pleasure?" she ...
— The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition Vol. 20 (of 25) • Robert Louis Stevenson

... again to throw his eye over the evening papers, and catch in various chit-chat the tone of public or party feeling on the 'crisis.' Then it was known that the Duke had returned from the King, having accepted the charge of forming an administration. An administration to do what? Portentous question! Were concessions to be made? And if so, what? Was it altogether impossible, and too late, 'stare super vias antiquas?' Questions altogether above your Tadpoles and your Tapers, whose idea of the necessities of the age was that they ...
— Coningsby • Benjamin Disraeli

... all was silence and portentous gloom. Nature seemed to pause and hold her breath in dread anticipation. Then came a muffled, jarring sound, as of far distant artillery, which died away into an oppressive stillness. Suddenly from zenith to horizon the cloud ...
— After the Storm • T. S. Arthur

... his Church. But, for all that, we owe mainly to him the clear utterance of that thought, the warm breath of which has thawed the ice chains which held Europe in barren bondage. Notwithstanding the present portentous revival of sacerdotalism, and the strange turning again of portions of society to these beggarly elements of the past, I believe that the figments of a sacrificing priesthood and sacramental efficacy will never again permanently darken the sky in this land, the home of the men who speak the tongue ...
— Expositions of Holy Scripture: The Acts • Alexander Maclaren

... hands of two of the most unscrupulous rascals in Colorado. Between you, you've got the men stirred up to a point where a strike is inevitable." For a time, Hartwell was apparently crushed by Firmstone's unanswerable logic, as well as by his portentous forecasts. He could not but confess to himself that his course of action looked very different under Firmstone's analysis than from his own standpoint alone. He drummed his fingers listlessly on the desk before him. He was all but convinced that he might have been wrong in his judgment of Firmstone, ...
— Blue Goose • Frank Lewis Nason

... had produced "Miss Multon" at the Union Square, and we were fast settling down to our steady, regular gait, having got over the false starts and breaks and nervous shyings of the opening performance, when another missive of portentous bulk ...
— Stage Confidences • Clara Morris

... solemnity-without even a room prepared and empty—to go through a business of such portentous seriousness!— 'Tis truly amazing from a man who seemed to delight so much in religious regulations and observances. Dr. Fisher himself was dissatisfied, and wondered at his compliance, though he attributed the plan to ...
— The Diary and Letters of Madam D'Arblay Volume 2 • Madame D'Arblay

... deliberately, without haste the great white flakes zigzagged down from the soft gray above, obscuring and softening the landscape, rendering dear and mysterious the commonest things. Then sounds came, subdued as in a sanctuary, and people approaching showed portentous as through a mist, and the boys, looking upward, caught big wet flakes on their lashes as they tried in vain to determine the point at which the snowflakes became visible. There existed no such point. The snowflakes did not approach as other things ...
— The Adventures of Bobby Orde • Stewart Edward White

... into the room but had waited too long. Miss Halsey, turning the guest of honor over to the second in command, a woman of portentous seriousness, made her way hastily to the mere butterflies; who endeavored vainly to slink away under cover of the ...
— The Sisters-In-Law • Gertrude Atherton

... active treatment should the course first tried prove unsatisfactory. Who can be surprised that the earlier apologists should have felt thus in the presence of an enemy whose novelty made him appear more portentous than he can ever seem to ourselves? They were bound to venture nothing rashly; what they did they did, for their own age, thoroughly; we owe it to their cautious pioneering that we so know the weakness of our ...
— The Fair Haven • Samuel Butler

... demanded Jenny suddenly sitting up with a portentous switch of her yellow mane. Mr. McClosky rubbed one side of his beard, which already had the appearance of having been quite worn away by that process, and ...
— Tales of the Argonauts • Bret Harte

... Duke of Lorraine, the Count of Savoy, the Bishops of Liege, Metz, and Verdun, and nearly all the barons of Burgundy came and joined him. On the 27th of July, 1340, he received there from his rival a challenge of portentous length, the principal terms of which ...
— A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times - Volume II. of VI. • Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

... to say. The air was clear and warm when my friend the Mate appeared on deck in all the splendour of "shore gear." He affects a material which never wears out. "Mr. McAlnwick, these here are the pants I was married in!" He reserves his serious thoughts for underwear, of which he carries a portentous quantity to last a voyage. Smart young cadets, who never wear the same collar twice, and sport white shirts and soiled souls in seamen's missions, are the Mate's aversion. He has severe censures for "gallivantin'" and "dressin' ...
— An Ocean Tramp • William McFee

... Democrates, with portentous gravity, "justice first, mercy later. Do you solemnly swear you heard ...
— A Victor of Salamis • William Stearns Davis

... the division of Jeremy's estate would require time—he had somewhere heard that such affairs often dragged on for a year; and now he was again in a fever of impatience to be away, safe, at sea. He added the more portentous word with the vague self-assurance that it was only the customary expression of his notable ignorance of land; but it echoed with an ominous ...
— Java Head • Joseph Hergesheimer

... experiment sake, to see what kind of FRANKENSTEIN would result from the architectural union of her scattered limbs. This formed the scope of the Vestiges of Creation; novelties were not propounded, only a portentous skeleton raised from the truths physical astronomy, geology, chemistry, physiology, and natural history had established. Does the author recoil from his work? No; these Explanations attest that he is steadfast in the worship of the idol of his brain. He retracts nothing, he ...
— An Expository Outline of the "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" • Anonymous

... helped out the illusion that they were worth all this anxiety on the part of the post-office, and she would call the Paymaster from his breakfast. His part on the other hand was to depreciate their importance. He would take the most weighty and portentous ...
— Gilian The Dreamer - His Fancy, His Love and Adventure • Neil Munro

... failed to produce the beginnings or promise of any new phase of civilised organisation, the growths have remained largely invertebrate and chaotic, and, concurrently with its gift of splendid and monstrous growth, it has also developed portentous political and economic evils. No doubt the increment of human energy has been considerable, but it has been much less than appears at first sight. Much of the human energy that America has displayed in the last century is not a development of new energy but a diversion. ...
— An Englishman Looks at the World • H. G. Wells

... no conflagration, no fuss, no searching of the passengers, no whisper of what had happened in the air; instead of a stir there was portentous peace; and it was clear to me that Raffles was not a little disturbed at the falsification of all his predictions. There was something sinister in silence under such a loss, and the silence was sustained for hours during ...
— The Amateur Cracksman • E. W. Hornung

... at the opulence she could not reach. Her impetuous, rebellious little heart was thumping bitterly as she considered this single phase of the life to come. She was ready to cry out against the injustice of it all. The little frown was portentous of deep-laid designs. She would break down this cruel barrier that kept Baldos from the fields over which prejudice alone held sway. Her love for him and her determination to be his wife were not in the least ...
— Beverly of Graustark • George Barr McCutcheon

... wind was now disturbed by a portentous sound: it was a quick and heavy knocking at the outer door. Pearson's wan countenance grew paler, for many a visit of persecution had taught him what to dread; the old man, on the other hand, stood up erect, and his glance ...
— Twice Told Tales • Nathaniel Hawthorne

... me a patent-leather dancing shoe to indicate the desired size, and away I went, secured the shoes, and turned homeward. While skirting a large hill that arises athwart the sky to the westward of the city of Ripon, I was startled by a weird, portentous, moaning cry from my mount. Ah, its import was only too well known to me. Full many a time had I heard it in the desert. It was the cry by which the camels give warning of the coming of a storm. While yet the eye and ear of man can detect no signs ...
— The Strange Adventures of Mr. Middleton • Wardon Allan Curtis

... note to meet at one of her "at homes,". . . she welcomed both the masculine-looking ladies with a radiant smile, and introduced them, saying gently,—"You will be so pleased to know each other!" But the stony stare, stiff nod, portentous sniff, and scornful smile with which these two eminent females exchanged cold greetings, were enough to daunt the most sympathetic hostess that ever lived—and when they at once retired to different corners of the room and sat apart with their backs turned ...
— Thelma • Marie Corelli

... beast-godhead; the god in us triumphing more and more over the beast; striving more and more to subdue it under his feet? Did not the Ancients, in their wise, perennially significant way, figure Nature itself, their sacred All, or Pan, as a portentous commingling of these two discords; as musical, humane, oracular in its upper part, yet ending below in the cloven hairy feet of a goat? The union of melodious, celestial Freewill and Reason, with foul Irrationality ...
— The Best of the World's Classics, Vol. V (of X) - Great Britain and Ireland III • Various

... mighty days at that portentous moment made its descent on that unknown man. Cambronne invents the word for Waterloo as Rouget invents the "Marseillaise," under the visitation of a breath from on high. An emanation from the divine whirlwind leaps forth ...
— Les Miserables - Complete in Five Volumes • Victor Hugo

... as it seemed almost touching the ship, when the whirling waves round its base made us oscillate from side to side, the Josephine, heeling over to her chain-plates from a sudden rush of wind that appeared to accompany it, the portentous column of vapour darted off almost at right angles to its former course; and then, the cloud, having taken up more of the sea-water than it could contain, burst with a loud hissing sort of report, the contents falling around us in the form ...
— The White Squall - A Story of the Sargasso Sea • John Conroy Hutcheson

... Chia: "Venerable ancestor," she observed, "Venerable Buddha! how could you ever be aware of the existence of the portentous passage in that Buddhistic classic, 'to the effect that a son of every person, who holds the dignity of prince, duke or high functionary, has no sooner come into the world and reached a certain age than numerous evil spirits at once secretly haunt him, and pinch him, when they find an opportunity; ...
— Hung Lou Meng, Book II • Cao Xueqin

... notorious Dr. Oates, rustling in the full silken canonicals of priesthood, for ... he affected no small dignity of exterior decoration and deportment.... His exterior was portentous. A fleece of white periwig showed a most uncouth visage, of great length, having the mouth ... placed in the very centre of the countenance, and exhibiting to the astonished spectator as much chin below as there was nose and brow above it. His pronunciation was after a conceited ...
— Character Sketches of Romance, Fiction and the Drama - A Revised American Edition of the Reader's Handbook, Vol. 3 • E. Cobham Brewer

... manner, alluded to the ill-dressed food which daily made its appearance on the table. To-day, however, when they returned from church and sat down to dinner, probably owing to being a little sore on the subject of the soiled linen, Emily saw him knit his brows in rather a portentous manner, while, in no very amiable tone ...
— The Wedding Guest • T.S. Arthur

... Shakespeare missed when he was finishing the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth? Falstaff was not the man to stand cowed and bowed while the new young king lectured him and cast him off. Little by little, as Hal proceeded in that portentous allocution, the humour of the situation would have mastered old Sir John. His face, blank with surprise at first, would presently have glowed and widened, and his whole bulk have begun to quiver. ...
— And Even Now - Essays • Max Beerbohm

... aside, and put on a frown of portentous ferocity to conceal the delight with which her demonstration had, in reality, filled him. He loved to feel the sweep of the crisp locks, the touch of the soft cheek; he even appreciated, if the truth must be told, being addressed as a "precious," but wild horses ...
— Tom and Some Other Girls - A Public School Story • Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey

... incendiary hands, and then, swinging their hammocks under her deck, slept in peace, beyond reach of the tomahawk. The Indians gazed on her with amazement. Five small cannon looked out from her portholes; and on her prow was carved a portentous monster, the Griffin, whose name she bore, in honor of the armorial bearings of Frontenac. La Salle had often been heard to say that he would make the griffin fly above the crows, or, in other words, make ...
— France and England in North America, a Series of Historical Narratives, Part Third • Francis Parkman

... country at all, nor if dinner had to begin with soup and end with sweets just as it does in town. They eat extraordinary messes that would make a Frenchman turn pale and a German look grave. They make portentous pasties, rich with everything under the sun; they eat fat boiled beef, and raw fennel, and green almonds, and vast quantities of cream cheese, and they drink sour wine like water; and it all agrees ...
— Whosoever Shall Offend • F. Marion Crawford

... sellers daily increased. On the twenty-ninth day of the month the stock had sunk to one hundred and fifty; several eminent goldsmiths and bankers, who had lent great sums upon it, were obliged to stop payment and abscond. The ebb of this portentous tide was so violent, that it bore down everything in its way; and an infinite number of families were overwhelmed with ruin. Public credit sustained a terrible shock; the nation was thrown into a dangerous ferment; and nothing was heard but the ravings of grief, disappointment, and despair. Some ...
— The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.II. - From William and Mary to George II. • Tobias Smollett

... British artist naturally made protests and wrote pamphlets more or less angry in tone, according to the state of his purse and his temper and the extent of his self-appreciation. The press of the period raised its voice: a less portentous and sonorous organ than it has since possessed. Even the players ventured to be satirical on the subject. It was early in 1752 that Mr. Foote's comedy of Taste was brought upon the stage of Drury Lane Theatre, David Garrick both writing and speaking the prologue. Probably the satire soared rather ...
— Art in England - Notes and Studies • Dutton Cook

... these portentous signs, abandoned their undertaking and fled toward the shore. They were, however, intercepted by the people of AEgina, and some allies whom they had hastily summoned to their aid, and the whole party was destroyed except ...
— Darius the Great - Makers of History • Jacob Abbott

... place rather alarming and wicked-looking. They walk about a while among the fitful figures that gleam here and there out of the great tapestry (as it were) with which the painter has hung all the walls, and then, depressed and bewildered by the portentous solemnity of these objects, by strange glimpses of unnatural scenes, by the echo of their lonely footsteps on the vast stone floors, they take a hasty departure, finding themselves again, with a sense of release from danger, a sense that the genius ...
— Italian Hours • Henry James

... the openings of dark sheds that, on so sunny a day, were stored with cool night and cubes and planks of gold, he found his ship, the Mulatto Girl. She was for the Brazils. Now it is clear that one even wiser in shipping affairs than a boy would have expected to see a craft that was haughty and portentous when bound for the Brazils, a ship that looked equal to making a coast of that kind. There she was, her flush deck well below the quay wall. A ladder went down to her, for she was no more than a schooner of a little over one hundred tons. If that did not look like the beginning of one of those voyages ...
— London River • H. M. Tomlinson

... of friction and misunderstanding a system has now been almost generally adopted of giving classical names to Martian markings. Some of these are of portentous length and strange spelling, but still the adoption of a uniform nomenclature has been a great convenience to observers and others who have occasion to use or refer to ...
— To Mars via The Moon - An Astronomical Story • Mark Wicks

... always be sure of its selection. It did prevent the sending to Manila of certain undesirable applicants, but it could not prevent the going of Miss Perkins at the expense of the deluded, on ships that were common carriers, even though she were a common scold. There she was, portentous as the British Female portrayed by Thackeray. Backed by apparently abundant means and obviously indomitable "gall," she counted on carrying all before her by sheer force of her powers of self-assertion and the name of the ...
— Ray's Daughter - A Story of Manila • Charles King

... I watched for the postman! Envelopes of portentous bulk were put into my hands so often that I became inured to disappointment, unsurprised and unhurt, like a patient father who has more faith in the abilities of his children than the stupid and purblind world which will ...
— Stories of Achievement, Volume IV (of 6) - Authors and Journalists • Various

... and portentous sound that rushed towards them through the air, and through the solid ground as well. They heard it, and grew pale with terror. Across the entire lawn it rumbled nearer, growing in volume awfully. The very earth seemed breaking into bits about ...
— The Extra Day • Algernon Blackwood

... sentry sounded like the tread of an armed host; sounds being magnified to a degree almost terrific, in the absence of others by which their intensity may be compared. Even the dash of the waves below the walls was heard in the deep and awful stillness of that portentous night. ...
— Traditions of Lancashire, Volume 2 (of 2) • John Roby

... the portentous nature of the storm, it was not fully borne out, and morning saw the sun shining on the piles of snow that had fallen. There had been a considerable quantity sifted down on what was already about Elk Lodge, but there was not ...
— The Moving Picture Girls Snowbound - Or, The Proof on the Film • Laura Lee Hope

... am not qualified to speak; and if you would ask me that which I remember chiefly of the noble gentlemen who were present, I can say with conscience, that beyond their stars and ribbons, I was only stricken by their monstrous and portentous Periwigs, which towered in the candle-light like so many great tufts of plumage atop of the Pope's Baldaquin, which I have seen so many times staggering through the great aisles ...
— The Strange Adventures of Captain Dangerous, Vol. 1 of 3 • George Augustus Sala

... after the Prince's birth came another event, which to one at least in Bury Castle, was enough to account for any portentous eclipse. The Countess found Beatrice ...
— Earl Hubert's Daughter - The Polishing of the Pearl - A Tale of the 13th Century • Emily Sarah Holt

... the initiative might come from the gods. Some marked misfortune, an earthquake, lightning, a great famine, a portentous birth, or some such occurrence would be recognised as a prodigium, or sign of the god's displeasure. Somehow or other the contract must have been broken on the human side and it was the duty of the state to see to the ...
— The Religion of Ancient Rome • Cyril Bailey

... met together at a most interesting period. The situations of the principal powers of Europe are singular and portentous. Connected with some by treaties and with all by commerce, no important event there can be indifferent to us. Such circumstances call with peculiar importunity not less for a disposition to unite in all those measures on which the honor, ...
— State of the Union Addresses of John Adams • John Adams

... and wide, and it was lined throughout with beaten gold. In a straight path the light was reflected from every point—every point but one for at the far end, where the curved sides joined, was a circle of darkness. It stared like an eye, evil, portentous. Jerry nerved himself for an ordeal, unknown but imminent. The black eye glared at ...
— Astounding Stories of Super-Science, June, 1930 • Various

... streetes. And yesterday, the Bird of Night did sit, Euen at Noone-day, vpon the Market place, Howting, and shreeking. When these Prodigies Doe so conioyntly meet, let not men say, These are their Reasons, they are Naturall: For I beleeue, they are portentous things Vnto the Clymate, that they ...
— The First Folio [35 Plays] • William Shakespeare

... many open-air rehearsals, transferred, when the weather grew colder, to Willie Giertz's, where there were no near neighbors to whom the portentous secret might leak out. There was not one defective voice in the class save Harry's, and he was at first a puzzle; but that difficulty vanished when it was learned that his fondest ambition was satisfied by striking the tuning-fork. Thereafter ...
— Stories Worth Rereading • Various

... emergency drill was gone through, the boats occupied and vacated and the tackle tested, to the dismal voice of the megaphone on the bridge. And as night came on the more constant callings of the lookouts from their wind-swept perches and the answering call through the darkness had an ominous and portentous sound which shook even Tom's wonted stolidness and made ...
— Tom Slade with the Colors • Percy K. Fitzhugh

... Ellen's hand and then seemed to remember something. After exchanging a portentous glance with the woman in uniform, he looked steadfastly into her face and said sombrely: "I hope all's well with you, sister! I ...
— The Judge • Rebecca West

... Fellow-Citizens, the portentous evil which Washington thus deprecated in his Farewell Address to the people of the United States is now upon us. I repeat we are in the midst of the crisis of sectional parties. How shall it be passed, so that the Union shall ...
— The Relations of the Federal Government to Slavery - Delivered at Fort Wayne, Ind., October 30th 1860 • Joseph Ketchum Edgerton

... upon his Snake with due and portentous ceremony and, according to Stephen, who was present, which I declined to be, that mystic reptile declared that Dogeetah, alias Brother John, would arrive in Beza Town precisely at sunset on the third ...
— Allan and the Holy Flower • H. Rider Haggard

... COURT. Methought Each flash would fire the Citadel; the flame Wreathed round its pinnacles, and poured in streams Adown the pallid battlements. Our revellers Forgot their festival, and stopped to gaze On the portentous vision. When behold! The curtained clouds re-opened, and a bolt Came winged from the startling blue of heaven, ...
— Count Alarcos - A Tragedy • Benjamin Disraeli

... the dining-room. He went in as carelessly as possible and smoking a cigarette. He had an honourable dread of being portentous in his family; almost ostentatiously he laid the bishop aside. Eleanor had finished her meal, and was sitting in the arm-chair by the fire with one hand holding her ...
— Soul of a Bishop • H. G. Wells

... Son of God: and they that hear shall live." The murderous rage of the Jews was rebuffed by the declaration that without His submission they could not take His life: "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." Another utterance was equally portentous: "And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." He, the Son of the exalted and glorified Man of Holiness and now Himself a mortal Man,[446] was to be the ...
— Jesus the Christ - A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy - Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern • James Edward Talmage

... transcendentalists, of whom I am one; it is as a student of transcendentalism that I have been led to examine this modern mystery, equipped as it is with such portentous phenomena. Diabolism is, of course, a transcendental question, and black magic is connected with white by the same antinomy that connects light and darkness. Moreover, we mystics are all to some extent accused by the accusations which are preferred in the matter of modern diabolism, and this ...
— Devil-Worship in France - or The Question of Lucifer • Arthur Edward Waite

... Magnificent, yet fearfully sublime, In few brief hours the scene depicted there! Below the battle raged, and high in air The gathering clouds, with tempest in their womb, A supernatural darkness seem'd to wear; As heralding, by their portentous gloom, Victory to Israel's host, her foes' ...
— The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, No. 360 - Vol. XIII. No. 360, Saturday, March 14, 1829 • Various

... they neared a valley where a sheltered hamlet lay, A strange, portentous wailing made them pause upon their way— Voices fraught with anguish, telling of aching heart and brow, Which kept moaning: "Jesus, Master, have ...
— The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon (Mrs. R.E. Mullins) • Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon

... something charmingly cordial and engaging in the manner in which after saying "Now, Handel," as if it were the grave beginning of a portentous business exordium, he had suddenly given up that tone, stretched out his honest hand, and spoken ...
— Great Expectations • Charles Dickens

... upon himself the blame for this misfortune. His portentous blunders were in sending out the party to a distance and in taking no steps to keep in communication with it or to support it. The detachment of a small party to a distant point is a habit of Indian warfare. ...
— Lessons of the War • Spenser Wilkinson

... over the house of Handsomebody all that afternoon and evening. We were allowed to have no finger in this portentous pie. ...
— Explorers of the Dawn • Mazo de la Roche

... the Amazon, and its portentous tributaries flowing from south to north, were also formed perhaps at that time, great fissures caused by the sudden splitting and cooling of the earth's crust becoming the river beds. So perhaps was formed the giant canon of Colorado and the immense fissures ...
— Across Unknown South America • Arnold Henry Savage Landor

... her presence. Some of their conferences had been overheard and were now recalled, in which this expression of dislike had taken the form of threats, vague and purposeless, seemingly, at the time; but which now, taken in connection with what she gathered from the lips of the child, seemed of portentous interest. Then, when she understood that Stevens had sent a note in reply—and that both notes were sealed, the quick, feminine mind instantly jumped to ...
— Charlemont • W. Gilmore Simms

... like this, seems to be the source of our most portentous follies and absurdities. This is the original sin upon which St. Austin and Calvin descanted. Certain Arabic writers seem to have had this in their minds, when they tell us, that there is a black drop ...
— Thoughts on Man - His Nature, Productions and Discoveries, Interspersed with - Some Particulars Respecting the Author • William Godwin

... adds, "portentous and fatal as it is to the prospects and welfare of this Union, is not the only instrument of Southern domination wielded by the executive arm at Washington. The dismemberment of our neighboring republic of Mexico, and the acquisition of an immense ...
— Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams. • Josiah Quincy

... disentangled from the object to which they had attached themselves, experienced judges of such matters may perhaps question. To justify Clement in his estimate of the danger of such an experiment, we must remember that to young people in their teens a first passion is a portentous and unprecedented phenomenon. The young man may have been mistaken in thinking that Susan would die if he left her, and may have done more than his duty in sacrificing himself; but if so, it was the mistake ...
— The Guardian Angel • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

... chamber from the judge's throne, bearing a parchment tied in black, a portentous seal depending from the ribbon. It was the first time that a death-warrant had been presented for the Queen's signature, ...
— The Royal Pawn of Venice - A Romance of Cyprus • Mrs. Lawrence Turnbull

... almost abiding sadness. For the second growth gives no promise of a stock which shall be worthy successors to these noble pioneers, the conquering gladiators of Canada's shadowy forests, the real makers of her great and portentous national life. And yet, strange to say, I never knew their real greatness while I lived among them, sharing in the varied chase, but only ...
— St. Cuthbert's • Robert E. Knowles

... was rounding its curve, and the rustle of the full-leaved trees in the slanting golden light, in the breeze that ought to be delicious, seemed the voice of the coming autumn, of the warnings and dangers of life—portentous, insufferable hours when, as she sat under the softly swaying vine-leaves of the trellis with Miss Birdseye and tried, in order to still her nerves, to read something aloud to her guest, the sound of her own quavering voice made her think more of ...
— The Bostonians, Vol. II (of II) • Henry James

... adviser—capacity to advise rightly, honesty to advise truly, and courtesy to advise decently. Now the Saturday Review has neither this, that, nor the other qualification. Indeed his words read like subtle and lurking irony by the light of those phenomenal and portentous vagaries which ever and anon illuminate his opaque pages. What correctness can we expect from a journal whose tomahawk-man, when scalping the corpse of Matthew Arnold, deliberately applies the term "sonnet" to some thirty lines in heroic couplets? ...
— Supplemental Nights, Volume 6 • Richard F. Burton

... after a visit to his birthplace, he exclaimed: "What a spectacle does our lower country present! Deserted and dismantled country-houses once the seats of cheerfulness and plenty, and the temples of the Most High ruinous and desolate, 'frowning in portentous silence upon the land,'" And in 1819 he wrote from Richmond: "You have no conception of the gloom and distress that pervade this place. There has been nothing like it since 1785 when from the same causes (paper money and a ...
— American Negro Slavery - A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime • Ulrich Bonnell Phillips

... magic power displays, It alters strangely all their works and ways; With uncouth words they tire their tender lungs, The same bald phrases on their hundred tongues "Ever" "The Ages" in their page appear, "Alway" the bedlamite is called a "Seer;" On every leaf the "earnest" sage may scan, Portentous bore! their "many-sided" man,— A weak eclectic, groping vague and dim, Whose every angle is a half-starved whim, Blind as a mole and curious as a lynx, Who rides a beetle, which he calls a "Sphinx." And oh, what questions asked in clubfoot ...
— The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Complete • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

... interrupted the portentous silence. Once the prince uttered a hasty and scornful exclamation. He had intercepted a glance which the princess exchanged with Count Kalkreuth, and a glance full of ...
— Frederick The Great and His Family • L. Muhlbach

... our commendation of the characters we must make one exception: we humbly and respectfully submit that Mr. Bangs is a portentous bore, and we heartily wish that he had been drowned before he ever set his foot upon the shores of Newfoundland. It is possible, however, that in this case we are not impartial judges; for we confess, that, for our own private reading, we are heartily weary of the Yankee,—we ...
— The Atlantic Monthly , Volume 2, No. 14, December 1858 • Various

... of passions to which we dare not venture to give names, lest we be found either not condemning what defiles and imbrutes our nature or denying our meed of praise and gratitude to what ennobles it. All this portentous activity and business flows from no other fount and is fed by no other spring than the spirit which is within us, that spirit which has created that wealth, material, artistic, spiritual, which it is so busily engaged in wrecking and undoing. It is still as of old, making History, making it in the ...
— Progress and History • Various

... seat and ran indoors. At that moment she wanted company more than anything else in the world. Sunny as it was outside, the silence worried her. There was something portentous even in the singing of the August insects. Aunt Nan's genuine interest in Mr. Crusoe and his welfare would probably prevent Vivian from giving expression to her new-born fears; but at least nearness to some one might quiet the misgivings ...
— Virginia of Elk Creek Valley • Mary Ellen Chase

... of the supreme importance of love; but not I! I have had my dream, but it is over. If we had met in Vienna it would never have claimed me at all. In New York one may be serious in the romantic manner when one is temporarily free from care, but seriousness is of another and a portentous quality over there." ...
— Black Oxen • Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton

... had the opportunity of enjoying a scene as beautiful as any that nature offers to the human eye. She was poised, so to speak, on the shoulder of Lost Mountain, a spot made cheerful and hospitable by her father's industry, and by her own inspiring presence. The scene, indeed, was almost portentous in its beauty. Away above her the summit of the mountain was bathed in sunlight, while in the valley below the shadows of dawn were still hovering—a slow-moving sea of transparent gray, touched here and there with silvery reflections of light. Across the face of ...
— Free Joe and Other Georgian Sketches • Joel Chandler Harris

... by all this dreaming, Werner sprang up of a sudden, With long strides walked through his chamber; And his mind was troubled always By the same portentous question: "Shall I ask the Baron for her?" Love well-nigh appeared to him now Just like stolen fruit; he felt that, Like a thief, before the day broke, He had better leave the castle. But just then the sun ...
— The Trumpeter of Saekkingen - A Song from the Upper Rhine. • Joseph Victor von Scheffel

... down Thames till I came to anything unpleasant, when it was my design to leave my canoe at once, to tie it up to a post, and to go off to another place, "for," I told him, "I am here to think about Peace, and to see if She can be found." When I said this his face became moody, and, as though such portentous thoughts required action to balance them, he strained his line, lifted his float smartly from the water (so that I saw the hook flying through the air with a quarter of a worm upon it), and brought it down far ...
— On Nothing & Kindred Subjects • Hilaire Belloc

... by, to call him out of these rhapsodies, came Rose home; and finding the kitchen hearth cold, and Aunt Keziah missing, and no dinner by the fire, which was smouldering,—nothing but the portentous earthen jug, which fumed, and sent out long, ill-flavored sighs, she tapped at Septimius's door, and asked him ...
— Septimius Felton - or, The Elixir of Life • Nathaniel Hawthorne

... anything that could be called bedding, and no other stick of furniture. Before the front door was a rough stone causeway, already ankle-deep in filth. Close up to the rear of the house was a dung-heap of portentous size and savour. Evidently this was a case of taking the horse to the water and being unable to make him drink, for the people thrust into a clean house were obviously doing their best to bring it into ...
— Disturbed Ireland - Being the Letters Written During the Winter of 1880-81. • Bernard H. Becker

... another romantic tale to tell before we bid adieu to the story of early Rome. In the second year of the pestilence a strange and portentous event occurred. The Tiber rose to an unusual height, overflowed with its waters the great circus (Circus Maximus), and put a stop to the games then going on, which were intended to propitiate the wrath of heaven, and induce the gods to relieve man from ...
— Historic Tales, Volume 11 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality • Charles Morris

... tenant of this cell must term even the King of France, when he deigns to visit him as a disciple—believe me that in considering the consequences of this invention, I read with as certain augury as by any combination of the heavenly bodies, the most awful and portentous changes. When I reflect with what slow and limited supplies the stream of science hath hitherto descended to us, how difficult to be obtained by those most ardent in its search, how certain to be neglected by all who regard their ...
— Quentin Durward • Sir Walter Scott

... care if she never saw a book again. Even the home letters were a grievous task to her, for she never could think of anything to say. Margaret, deep in the precious pages of Froissart, it might be, would be roused by a portentous sigh, and looking up, would find Peggy champing the penhandle, and gazing at her with ...
— Three Margarets • Laura E. Richards



Words linked to "Portentous" :   pretentious, important, prophetical, portent, grandiloquent, pompous, significant, foreboding, prophetic



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