Exploring the Literary and Real Life Meaning:
Ready for an English vocabulary lesson that’s also highly useful in real life? Let’s look at the word FORESHADOWING to answer the question: “Another word for foreshadowing is.. what?”
What is Foreshadowing?
The simple definition of foreshadowing is: a hint of something that will come later, or a clue of future events. In any text, film, work of literature, or real life moment, often the easiest way to see foreshadowing is by looking BACK at what’s already happened, and asking: “How did I (or the main character) get to this point? What led us here?” (See the cartoon above for a visualization.)
By looking back at the moments that led to the present, you can begin to see the hints that were hidden on the path along the way. Some of these hints you (or the character) might have noticed at the time, and some may only be visible in hindsight.
In my cartoon illustration example above of the man standing high on a mountain, perhaps that man heard his mother tell him over and over throughout his life, “Don’t wander too far from home, or you may end up lost and confused!” Perhaps he never noticed those hints about his future until the day he wound up on a mountain peak, thinking back to the wisdom of his mama’s words… and wishing he’d listened!
Another Word for Foreshadowing Is…
Yes indeed, another word for foreshadowing is: “omen” or “portent” — but if we’re allowed more than one word to define it, foreshadowing is a warning or hint of something that may or will come in the future.
Synonyms for Foreshadowing:
Besides “hint of what’s to come,” other foreshadowing synonyms include: sign, indication, harbinger, presage, warning, suggestion, prognostication, and more. Yeah — “hint about the future” is easiest to remember, eh?
Examples of Foreshadowing:
Anything that’s a hint of what will come in the future can be foreshadowing. In the cartoon above, the human with fluffy red hair casually remarks, “That’s a big cloud…” Then they moseyed on their way, not stopping to think about what this hint about the future could mean for them, practically — specifically, that they should have grabbed an umbrella!
Several minutes later, the big cloud GUSHES out so much rain that the person is utterly drenched — curly hair drooping with the raindrops. “Should have seen that coming,” the person sighs damply, realizing with the 20-20 vision of hindsight that the cloud was a hint and warning that should have been heeded. (One of the benefits of drawing is you can juxtapose these two situations next to each other to make the foreshadowing even clearer…)
VIDEO of Foreshadowing Examples:
Foreshadowing in Literature, TV, and Movies:
Both good things and bad things can be foreshadowed, and one common form of foreshadowing is to give hints about the true nature of a person. For example, if a character in a book is always described as wearing blood red, this could be foreshadowing that they will do something evil (the red being symbolic for devil-like nature). Suspense can be built by this technique, too.
Important events can also be foreshadowed, sometimes by smaller versions of a similar action happening early in the story. For example, if a character is always talking about learning to catch a ball well, at the end of the story, they may save the day by catching a dog that has tumbled from a third story window.
Objects or places that will become important can also be foreshadowed. If a TV show opens with the camera looking at a sword hanging on the wall, that might be a hint that the sword will be a key plot point in the story. Foreshadowing gives a reader or viewer the satisfying “Oooh!” that comes from lots of little parts coming together into a satisfying and logical conclusion.
The Beauty of Literary Devices in Life…
One of my favorite things about being an English teacher is that vocabulary words like foreshadowing, context, onomatopoeia, and liminal space are deeply relevant to real life ideas. If you get into the habit of noticing them in books, TV, and films, you can start to see them everywhere in the real world, every day, and it becomes evident: every small detail is important and leads to the truth. Noticing these hints has big implications for predicting and shaping our future.
So what about you? Have you studied or seen foreshadowing before? What questions or comments do you have? Do share!
The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a public school educator since 2003, and an experienced Reiki practitioner since 2018. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other two sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009) and TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010). Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!