nuclear option

noun

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 In my family’s culinary arsenal, Goodman’s is the nuclear option. Benjamin Dubow, Longreads, 20 Feb. 2024 The ‘nuclear option’ in L.A.’s war to rein in the mighty car, make streets safe Aug. 10, 2022 Advertisement Architects of the measure intended it as a way to make streets safer, more accessible to bikes and pedestrians and more transit-friendly. Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 1 Feb. 2024 Yet another influential argument is that, without counterforce targeting, the United States would have a narrower range of nuclear options at its disposal. Charles L. Glaser, Foreign Affairs, 5 Oct. 2023 The United States could threaten a spectrum of nuclear options, ranging from demonstration explosions to small attacks against isolated infrastructure targets that would result in limited civilian casualties to large attacks that would result in societal destruction. Charles L. Glaser, Foreign Affairs, 5 Oct. 2023 Phelan always has a nuclear option — working with Democrats. Lauren McGaughy, Dallas News, 18 Sep. 2023 Ultimately, the governor has the last word — unless Democrats take the extremely rare, practically nuclear option and override his veto, something that has not happened in Sacramento since 1980. Laurel Rosenhall, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2023 Her intention to sue lawmakers represents a nuclear option in the Methuen Democrat’s months-long dispute with House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen E. Spilka, both of whom DiZoglio served with during her time in the Legislature. Matt Stout, BostonGlobe.com, 26 July 2023 The gambit would see Lasso rule by presidential decree and hold elections in six months’ time, and critics can see why Lasso might be tempted to opt for the nuclear option. Tara John, CNN, 4 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nuclear option.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1962, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of nuclear option was in 1962

Dictionary Entries Near nuclear option

Cite this Entry

“Nuclear option.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nuclear%20option. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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