What's the difference between portend and presage?

Do they have any differences with each other?

  • What does the dictionary say for portend and presage? Dictionary lookup questions are off-topic on ELL.
    – Matt
    Sep 10, 2013 at 20:28

2 Answers 2


There is really no difference in the meaning of the 2 words as verbs. They both mean to warn of something to come in the future, usually something unpleasant.

It's worth noting that presage can also be a noun, meaning an omen or warning. Portend is only a verb, but we have the noun portent which is derived from the same Latin root.

  • I've never considered this difference before, but I for one get a more negative vibe from “portend” than I do from “presage”. Sep 10, 2013 at 16:22
  • It's worth noting that portent is the noun form of portend.
    – p.s.w.g
    Sep 10, 2013 at 16:22
  • 1
    @TylerJamesYoung I do too but I'm not sure why. I'm also not sure it's something that's universal or even common, which is why I didn't mention it. One of the reasons I like ELL is that it sometimes makes me think about quirks like this. Sep 10, 2013 at 18:26

The words are extremely similar. Portend has perhaps a little more flavor of logical conclusion and a little less of intuitive knowledge than presage has. For example, the loss to Michigan may portend a difficult season for Notre Dame this year. The dream I had last night where I was driving and arrived at a t-junction presages an important decision I will have to make soon.

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