nuclear option

noun
Updated on: 8 Nov 2017

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
; specificallyUS 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

Recent Examples of nuclear option from the Web

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.

First Known Use of nuclear option

1962


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

food, provisions, or a tasty dish

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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!