Adjective > Ominous

Adjective – Ominous

The word “omen” comes straight from Latin and means “something that tells what will happen in the future.”

Omens are either good or bad. You don’t hear too much about humdrum omens.

But, maybe because we pay more attention to things we see as bad omens, the word “ominous” means “revealing a bad omen,” or more loosely, “creepy, spooky, or sinister in a way that seems to suggest that something bad will happen.”

OM uh nuss

Part of speech:
Adjective: “the owl’s ominous stare,” “the owl’s stare seemed ominous.”

Other common forms:
omen(s), ominously

How to use it:
This word is common and powerful.

It can emphasize how something fills us with a vague, dreadful, anticipatory fear: “I drew back from the ominous shadows.” And it’s great for exaggeration: “We heard silence from the playroom, then an ominous ‘Oops.'”

Often we talk about ominous sights and sounds, like an ominous darkening of the sky, or an ominous rumbling of thunder.

People’s voices, and their words and facial expressions, can seem ominous. “He stopped us with his ominous glare.”

It’s often music that we find ominous: “Danny Elfman wrote the whimsical, ominous score for The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

And often, it’s silence that strikes us as most ominous.

Aside from sights and sounds, you can call just about anything else ominous: smells, threats, warnings, predictions, statistics, developments, coincidences, etc.

Finally, although you can talk about ominous signs, signals, and indicators, why not just call them omens?

“The woods always look different at night… Everything has an unfamiliar slant to it. As if the daytime trees and flowers and stones had gone to bed and sent slightly more ominous versions of themselves to take their places.”
— Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, 2008

“Here’s what’s familiar (about the remake of the movie). The Creeds are still the focus, having just moved from Boston with their children, Gage and Ellie, and cute cat in search of a quieter life in Maine. There’s still the ominous, dead-raising burial ground in the woods that will upend those hopes. Semi trucks speeding by still foreshadow doom.”
— Mekado Murphy, New York Times, 7 April 2019