Portend/presage/foreshadow/prefigure/betoken/augur/bode

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Scorpion56

Senior Member
Polish
Oxofrd Dictionary of English indicates that the meaning of all of the words is roughly the same - they say that something, usually something bad, is going to happen in the future, for example:
Dark clouds in the sky betokened a thunderstorm.
Can I use any of the other words in this sentence instead of betoken? How are they different? In meaning or perhaps only in register? I should be grateful for your help.
 
  • reno33

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Yes, the meaning of all your words are "roughly" the same. They may be considered synonyms, I suppose.

    But that's only half the story. The other half is that each word possesses its own particular nuanced meaning and usage so that one could not say these words are interchangeable. One simply cannot substitute one for another willy nilly..

    Explaining the differences among these words and how and when they can actually be used would require a large book and months of research to complete. As always, and as with all foreign languages, the only way you can come to fully understand these linguistics intricacies is to actually take up residence in the foreign country that uses the language and live there for years, preferably for decades.
     
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    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    :thumbsup:

    Apart, perhaps, from 'foreshadow', these words all sound, to me at least, either extremely formal or literary/poetic. I wouldn't use any of them in everyday speech.

    But you haven't given us any context in which you'd use your sentence, so it's hard to say which word, if any, would be the most appropriate.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Here's the sentence.
    Dark clouds in the sky betokened a thunderstorm.
    Can I use any of the other words in this sentence instead of betoken?
    In that sentence I think presaged and portended could fit, but not foreshadowed or prefigured or boded. Maybe augured would work.
     

    Scorpion56

    Senior Member
    Polish
    What about this one:
    Breaking a mirror may betoken/presage/portend/augur/bode bad luck?

    In the OP sentence, which one is the most usual, and which literary?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The most natural verb in this context is 'bring': Breaking a mirror brings (seven years) bad luck.

    None of your words would be appropriate here, I'm afraid.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    If you visit Google Ngram Viewer, and use the search terms Portend,presage,foreshadow,prefigure,betoken,augur_VERB,bode CLICK HERE , you will be shown the frequency with which the words occur in written English. Below the graph you will see links to those words in context. :thumbsup:
     
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