de·​ter·​rence | \di-ˈtər-ən(t)s, -ˈter-;-ˈtə-rən(t)s, -ˈte-;dē- \

Definition of deterrence 

: the act or process of deterring: such as

a : the inhibition of criminal behavior by fear especially of punishment

b : the maintenance of military power for the purpose of discouraging attack nuclear deterrence

Examples of deterrence in a Sentence

The author argues that deterrence is no longer the best way to prevent war.

Recent Examples on the Web

The MeToo movement has showed, if nothing else, how the deterrence around disrupting a power circuit from which many people benefit is perhaps even more harmful and cruel to victims than the abuse itself. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Is a Whistleblower," 26 Sep. 2018 The city remembers the Manhattan Project as a heroic story of wartime industry and sacrifice, the bomb as an unfortunate but sober necessity for ending the war and maintaining peace through nuclear deterrence ever since. Emily Strasser, Curbed, "A secret city opens up," 8 Aug. 2018 So, unlike Europe, the United States must conduct much of the work of its border enforcement and deterrence policies itself. New York Times, "In U.S. and Europe, Migration Conflict Points to Deeper Political Problems," 29 June 2018 If a country even suspects that the location of its second-strike submarines might be known, their value for nuclear deterrence decreases. The Economist, "Mutually assured detection," 8 Mar. 2018 And lethal control is often better funded in the West than deterrence. New York Times, "Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf Scientist?," 5 July 2018 Nelson has co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit the practice of separating children solely as a deterrence to prevent people from migrating to the United States. Skyler Swisher,, "Nelson, Wasserman Schultz denied access to immigrant center for children," 19 June 2018 The resistance to and deterrence of threats such as Olympic Destroyer should be based on cooperation between the private sector and governments across national borders. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Hackers who sabotaged the Olympic games return for more mischief," 19 June 2018 Others have argued that the main benefit of the policy is deterrence. Michael Scherer, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump claims policy of separating families offers him leverage in immigration talks," 16 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deterrence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of deterrence

1861, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for deterrence

see deter

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for deterrence

The first known use of deterrence was in 1861

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English Language Learners Definition of deterrence

: the act of making someone decide not to do something : the act of preventing a particular act or behavior from happening

politics : the policy of developing a lot of military power so that other countries will not attack your country


de·​ter·​rence | \di-ˈtər-ən(t)s, -ˈter-; -ˈtə-rən(t)s; dē-\

Medical Definition of deterrence 

: the inhibition of criminal behavior by fear especially of punishment


de·​ter·​rence | \di-ˈtər-əns, -ˈter- \

Legal Definition of deterrence 

: the inhibition of criminal behavior by fear especially of punishment

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Spanish Central: Translation of deterrence

Britannica English: Translation of deterrence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about deterrence

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What made you want to look up deterrence? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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