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

Even if May manages to survive this crisis, the hard Brexit camp still has a nuclear option, which is to simply prevent her from reaching any deal with Brussels by the March 29 deadline, or any agreement to extend it. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "The Brexit Crisis Finally Engulfs the Party That Started It," 11 July 2018 Can there be fashion diplomacy after detonating the nuclear option? Robin Givhan, Houston Chronicle, "Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again," 13 July 2018 To end government shutdown, Trump suggests Senate use 'nuclear option' More: Analysis: In shutdown impasse, the dealmaking president remains mostly on the sidelines WHAT IS OPEN, WHAT IS CLOSED? John Bacon, Eliza Collins, USA TODAY, "The government shutdown: What we know now and what happens next," 21 Jan. 2018 He was confirmed to the court after Republicans changed Senate rules, a move that was referred to as the nuclear option. Bryan Lowry, kansascity, "Newly open seat on Supreme Court puts pressure on McCaskill in key Senate race," 27 June 2018 Game 5 ended much the same, Golden State running out to a big lead in the third quarter and prevailing 113-104 in the end, leaving only one real question: Why hasn’t Steve Kerr turned to this nuclear option earlier? Al Saracevic, San Francisco Chronicle, "In the end, the Warriors death lineup killed the Pelicans," 8 May 2018 Here, Edward took the medieval equivalent of the nuclear option, assembling the largest collection of huge, boulder-tossing firepower the world has ever seen in one place. William Gurstelle, Popular Mechanics, "The Legend of Ludgar the War Wolf, King of the Trebuchets," 1 May 2017 In 2013, Senate Democrats — then in the majority — triggered the nuclear option for the first time. NBC News, "McConnell went 'nuclear' to confirm Gorsuch. But Democrats changed Senate filibuster rules first.," 28 June 2018 And there is always the nuclear option if the Sixers want to get crazy. SI.com, "What Kawhi Leonard's Trade Request Means for San Antonio and the NBA At Large," 19 June 2018

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

Share nuclear option

Statistics for nuclear option

Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nuclear option

The first known use of nuclear option was in 1962

See more words from the same year

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

a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

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!