15 Terms for Those Who Tell the Future

By Mark Nichol

Do you need a word for a person who foretells the future? Take care in your selection. There are plenty of synonyms, but most have a unique connotation. Here are 15 mostly distinct terms and their specific meanings:

1. augur: One who predicts events based on omens; the name stems from officials in ancient Rome who carried out this type of task. (The verb form is used in the expression “augurs well,” as in “This outcome augurs well for us.”) Not to be confused with auger, the word for a device or tool for boring holes.

2. Cassandra: One who correctly predicts unfortunate events in vain, from the character in Greek mythology so cursed.

3. crystal gazer: One who uses a crystal or glass globe or other objects in order to channel knowledge; a modern sense is of predicting without sufficient information.

4. doomsayer: One who routinely predicts disaster. (See Cassandra for a special sense.)

5. fortune-teller: One who foretells events, generally to a client regarding that person’s personal life.

6. futurist: One who offers opinions or insights about the future based on study of past and current events; this term is most appropriate for a serious discussion of modern predictions about societal issues based on trends.

7. Jeremiah: A pessimistic biblical prophet, and, by extension, anyone who predicts calamity; his name also gave rise to the term jeremiad, meaning “a complaint or rant.”

8. oracle: A person who serves as the mouthpiece of a deity. (Oracular pronouncements in ancient Greece were obscure and ambiguous, and more than one figure in Greek mythology learned that lesson painfully.) The term now refers, by extension, to anyone respected for the sagacity of their opinions or predictions.

9. palm reader/palmist: A fortune-teller whose predictions are based on reading the lines of a person’s palm.

10. prophesier: One who prophesies (pronounced with a long i), or makes a prediction, often in the sense of a veiled message, handed down through the generations, that foretells an occurrence.

11. prognosticator: One who predicts based on observations of phenomena.

12. prophet: One who reveals through divine inspiration. In the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), the term refers to one who has received messages directly from God; in this sense, the singular and plural forms are often capitalized.

13. seer: One who predicts events, especially a crystal gazer. By extension, this term refers to insightful modern experts.

14. sibyl: One of a number of female prophets of the ancient world.

15. soothsayer: One who predicts the future by reason, intuition, or magic.

There is no noun form of the phrase “deja vu” that identifies a person who experiences an illusion of having already lived through an event occurring for the first time, but there should be. The term also refers casually to a familiar but unwelcome experience. (“Support for the Libyan rebels was yet another case of deja vu.”)

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8 Responses to “15 Terms for Those Who Tell the Future”

  • kirc

    14. sibyl: One of a number of female prophets of the ancient world.

    ^so this is where Sybil Trelawney of the Harry Potter world came from. Interesting! 😉

  • Peter

    fraud, charlatan, conman, bullshit artist, …

  • Stephen

    Augury in ancient Rome was based specifically on the flights of birds, and it less involved telling the future than determining whether a chosen course of action was in accordance with divine will.

    A similar individual called a haruspex would have used the entrails of sacrificed animals for the same purpose.

  • Aaron Pace

    How about “deja vuer”? Maybe vu-er should by hyphenated for clarity. You could also run it together in one word: dejavuer. It would undoubtedly need to be pronounced as a French word.

  • thebluebird11

    …how about “deja viewer”?

  • TomL

    And I forsee that soon DWT will publish 15 Terms for Those Who Tell the Past.

    Let me help: historian, chronicler,…

  • Mark Nichol

    Tom:

    Your powers of perception are greater than mine. I actually hadn’t visualized this topic yet, but now I have it in mind.

  • Sunil Garg

    ‘Clairvoyant ‘ is the word also to include

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