nuclear option

noun

Definition of nuclear option

1 : the option of using nuclear weapons in war … it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight.— Shelby Steele
2 : an extreme option regarded as a drastic step or last resort The EU has most leverage over countries that are desperate to join. Once in the club, with full voting rights, countries can answer back, leaving their peers with only the nuclear option of trying to expel them.The Economist specifically, US politics : a parliamentary procedure in the U.S. Senate by which the requirement of the affirmative votes of a supermajority of senators is changed to require only a simple majority to invoke cloture in order to stop a filibuster and allow a vote on a matter (such as a judicial nomination) to proceed Since Republicans can't muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome this particular filibuster, they now want to use their authority over Senate procedures to abolish the maneuver itself, at least for judicial nominees. Exercising this "nuclear option," as it is known, would theoretically require the support of just a simple majority of senators, which Republican leaders say they are on the verge of solidifying. — Jonathan Cohn

Examples of nuclear option in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web McDaniels, despite choosing the nuclear option and walking away from Indianapolis, is a curiosity in league circles and has, for years, piloted one of the best and most diverse offenses in football. Conor Orr, SI.com, "NFL’s Next Head Coaches? 15 Coordinators and Position Coaches to Watch," 27 Sep. 2019 Already on their menu of options is going after a full repeal of TABOR, the nuclear option in Colorado politics. The Denver Post, "Post Premium: Our best stories for the week of Nov. 4 – 10," 10 Nov. 2019 The nuclear option refers to a last-resort maneuver in the Senate to change the rules so that action can be taken with a simple majority of 51 votes and not the 60-vote threshold that is needed to break a filibuster by the minority. Adam Edelman /, NBC News, "Trump resumes DACA blame game, says 'our country is being stolen'," 2 Apr. 2018 Then there's the nuclear option: launching a nuclear warhead into space and detonating it near an oncoming asteroid. NBC News, "Huge asteroid misses Earth but spotlights threat posed by space rocks," 10 Aug. 2019 Also, that nuclear option – from the commissioner’s position – must be reserved for the most egregious of cases. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "Analysis: What's next for Warriors after Kyle Lowry incident? They should oust Mark Stevens," 7 June 2019 Call my bluff With Macau’s economy so dependent upon casinos, letting the licenses lapse for the sake of the trade war seems like a nuclear option—even in a conflict that’s increasingly self-defeating. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "How China’s Casino Enclave of Macau Could Become a Bargaining Chip in the U.S. Trade War," 31 Aug. 2019 This, though, would be a nuclear option: one that America is likely to take only in extremis. The Economist, "Hong Kong remains crucially important to mainland China," 8 Aug. 2019 So at his graduation party, when Angel begins throwing some innocent shade, Damon opts for the nuclear option. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Burned Bridges: 5 Key Takeaways From Episode 8 of 'Pose' Season 2," 7 Aug. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of nuclear option

1962, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nuclear option

Time Traveler for nuclear option

Time Traveler

The first known use of nuclear option was in 1962

See more words from the same year

Statistics for nuclear option

Last Updated

19 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Nuclear option.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nuclear%20option. Accessed 29 January 2020.

Comments on nuclear option

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to assert without proof or before proving

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

January 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • image1642096650
  • Which is a synonym of bonhomie?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!