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Illustration for article titled Word of the Day: i Augur/i

Good evening and welcome to Word of the Day! A journey through the English vocabulary and the words that piqued my interest, in WotD we'll be learning a new word for each working day of the week, except for holidays, unless there's a holiday special...


Today's word is:



verb [ intrans. ] ( augur well/badly/ill)

  • (of an event or circumstance) portend a good or bad outcome : the end of the Cold War seemed to augur well | the return to the gold standard augured badly for industry.
  • [ trans. ] portend or bode (a specified outcome) : they feared that these happenings augured a neo-Nazi revival.
  • [ trans. ] ( archaic) foresee or predict.

noun (historical)

(in ancient Rome) a religious official who observed natural signs, esp. the behavior of birds, interpreting these as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of a proposed action.


ORIGIN: late Middle English (as a noun): from Latin, 'diviner.'


While all of these words refer to telling something before it happens, predict is the most commonly used and applies to the widest variety of situations. It can mean anything from hazarding a guess (: they predicted he'd never survive the year) to making an astute inference based on facts or statistical evidence (: predict that the Republicans would win the election).


When a meteorologist tells us whether it will rain or snow tomorrow, he or she is said to forecast the weather, a word that means predict but is used particularly in the context of weather and other phenomena that cannot be predicted easily by the general public (: statistics forecast an influx of women into the labor force).

Divine and foreshadow mean to suggest the future rather than to predict it, especially by giving or evaluating subtle hints or clues. To divine something is to perceive it through intuition or insight (: to divine in the current economic situation the disaster that lay ahead), while foreshadow can apply to anyone or anything that gives an indication of what is to come (: her abrupt departure that night foreshadowed the breakdown in their relationship).


Foretell, like foreshadow, can refer to the clue rather than the person who gives it and is often used in reference to the past (: evidence that foretold the young girl's violent end).

Augur means to foreshadow a favorable or unfavorable outcome for something (: the turnout on opening night augured well for the play's success).


Prophesy connotes either inspired or mystical knowledge of the future and suggests more authoritative wisdom than augur (: a baseball fan for decades, he prophesied the young batter's rise to stardom).

Although anyone who has inside information or knowledge of signs and symptoms can prognosticate, it is usually a doctor who does so by looking at the symptoms of a disease to predict its future outcome.

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