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 New challenges from cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence and disinformation, as well as new missile and warhead technologies, must be considered to preserve deterrence, the alliance said. New York Times, 14 June 2021 This is a welcome change from recent years of immigration policy dedicated entirely to border security and deterrence. Willy Foote, Forbes, 8 June 2021 But there is little evidence of an effective deterrence. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 7 June 2021 On some grids, officers are highly visible, and on others, teams of officers focus on surveillance, deterrence and arresting repeat offenders, Junger said. Lauren Girgis, Dallas News, 7 June 2021 To revert to the army lingo, which Israelis hear every night on TV during episodes of fighting: deterrence is inherently entropic; the passage of time inevitably erodes it. David Shulman, The New York Review of Books, 3 June 2021 Treasury officials claim this would result in more voluntary compliance as well through deterrence as the IRS increases its tools to detect unreported money. Sarah Ewall-wice, CBS News, 20 May 2021 This has had the effect of switching the focus of the debate on terror from the problem of security and deterrence to the vague question of intellectual complicity. Harrison Stetler, The New Republic, 24 May 2021 Lozano said there is neither accountability nor deterrence for migrants who violate both federal and Texas law. Fox News, 14 May 2021

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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Time Traveler for deterrence

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The first known use of deterrence was in 1861

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Statistics for deterrence

Last Updated

21 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Deterrence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for deterrence



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

More from Merriam-Webster on deterrence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for deterrence

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


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