I'd like to use a word like "foreshadow", or a word similar to it, as long as the reader will understand what is to come is going to be good.

Is the a subjective interpretation of "foreshadow" or "omen" a good thing or a bad thing?

What alternative would mean something positive?


If you want a word with a similar meaning to foreshadow, but with the connotation of a good outcome, you could use the word augur. Whether it's appropriate or not depends on the exact use you want it for, but the word augur is indeed generally associated with something good. Consider this Ngram:

enter image description here

|improve this answer|||||
  • 1
    Also, augur is more commonly found in the collocation 'augur well' than with any other words. – Kris Dec 22 '11 at 9:50
  • 1
    Perhaps we're all becoming more optimistic. I'd always thought that bode was pretty much the antonym of augur, in that it invariably applies to bad things. But apparently that's no longer true. I would just note that augurs ill is more common than Peter's alternatives, though still less common than "well". – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 22:53
  • @FumbleFingers: I just added "ill" to the Ngram. Thanks for the suggestion. – Peter Shor Dec 22 '11 at 23:00

Among words of its kind, foreshadow is one of the most neutral. Its synonyms forebode, threaten connote problems, but foreshadow itself seems to not do so: "To presage, or suggest something in advance."

I usually think of presage as neutral, i.e. of its "An intuition of a future event; a presentiment" meaning, but I see it also has a usage that may be negative: "A warning of a future event; an omen".

The words I meant by "words of its kind", above, are synonyms (not all relevant) of presage, foretell, and omen: announce, annunciate, anticipate, augur, augury, bode, call, forebode, foreboding, forecast, forerunner, foretell, foretoken, harbinger, herald, indication, omen, portend, portent, predict, premonition, presage, prognostic, prognosticate, promise, prophesy, sign, threat, threaten, warning.

|improve this answer|||||

In my experience, foreshadow is a relatively benign term. I don't expect malevolence to come from its usage. It's a simple forecasting of an event that has not yet occurred. ("In retrospect, Ellen's habit of playing teacher as a young girl foreshadowed her career as an English lit professor.")

Omen or portent, for that matter, usually has a connotation of ill-fortune soon to befall someone. ("The black cat crossing one's path is seen as an omen to the superstitious.")

|improve this answer|||||

While foreshadow and omen can apply equally to good or bad situations per their dictionary definitions, I think there's a minor tendency for both to be negative in common usage. (I think OP has probably seen that too, hence the question.) Look at the contexts in which they're often used; we talk about a movie foreshadowing something (cue ominous music!), usually the turn of events that's going to make things hard for the heroes, or getting a bad feeling when you receive an omen. Not always and not a super-majority of the time, but there's a tendency in my experience (American English).

A neutral word for "providing an indication of something to come" is telegraph. This takes an object: "telegraph a move", "telegraph an aquisition", "carelessly telegraph the 'surprise' party", etc.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Telegraph is often used in the negative sense, that it makes something that should be a surprise, not a surprise. For example "That film would have been good, but the so-called twist was telegraphed in the first scene" – slim Dec 22 '11 at 16:42

One can also say a harbinger or talisman of good luck or fortune. These can figuratively be used to refer to any event.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 1
    Harbinger seems even more dire than foreshadowing and omen to me. It's usually associated with doom. – Bradd Szonye Sep 29 '13 at 17:06
  • @Bradd There are at least as many neutral or positive uses of harbinger as bad in titles of Wikipedia articles, and apparently it's not usually associated with doom: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Merk Sep 29 '13 at 20:39
  • I'm puzzled as to why you didn't actually include harbinger of doom in that ngram, as it's currently more common than harbinger of bad. However, harbinger of good is still more common, and doom appears to be a recent development, so it appears that I was mistaken. Sorry. – Bradd Szonye Sep 29 '13 at 21:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.