de·​ter·​rence | \ di-ˈtər-ən(t)s How to pronounce deterrence (audio) , -ˈter- How to pronounce deterrence (audio) , -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

Combining legalization with deterrence, Reagan hoped, would fix the nation’s immigration system once and for all. Anthony W. Fontes, The Conversation, "The long, bipartisan history of dealing with immigrants harshly," 9 July 2019 The administration is betting that the expansion will send a powerful message of deterrence to people in Central America considering undertaking the perilous journey north. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "Asylum officers ask court to block Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy in surprising filing," 27 June 2019 Though the numbers of people caught have risen and fallen over the past several decades, the United States’ response at the border has generally moved toward increased enforcement and efforts of deterrence. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Border apprehensions: Looking to the past to understand the current spike in illegal crossings," 23 June 2019 In addition to more deterrence along the travelers' routes, Mexican officials have drawn up plans to offer financial aid — perhaps $7 a day per person — and public works jobs to those migrants who are kept in Mexico. Dudley Althaus,, "Migration slows in Mexico. But will it last?," 23 June 2019 The refueling mission is critical to the future of the Navy, particular in its deterrence role in the Western Pacific. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Boeing wins bid to build the Navy’s carrier-launched tanker drone," 31 Aug. 2018 The war games, which finished last week, has become a major part of NATO’s deterrence measures against Russia and offers a chance for troops to focus on speed. Carlo Angerer /, NBC News, "NATO focuses on speed in the Baltics amid worries over Russia," 23 June 2018 Another four combatant commands oversee key warfare areas—cyberwarfare, special operations forces, global transportation and strategic deterrence, including against potential nuclear threats. Nancy A. Youssef, WSJ, "Trump Directs Pentagon to Set Up a Space Command," 18 Dec. 2018 Currently, this is handled through US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), the group mostly responsible for nuclear deterrence. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Space Command is coming back, but Space Force still needs approval from Congress," 18 Dec. 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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Statistics for deterrence

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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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- How to pronounce deterrence (audio) \

Legal Definition of deterrence

: the inhibition of criminal behavior by fear especially of punishment

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More from Merriam-Webster on deterrence

Spanish Central: Translation of deterrence

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

Comments on deterrence

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


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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