sa·​ber-rat·​tling | \ ˈsā-bər-ˌrat-liŋ How to pronounce saber-rattling (audio) , -ˌra-tᵊl-iŋ \
variants: or saber rattling or chiefly British sabre-rattling or sabre rattling

Definition of saber-rattling

: overtly and often exaggeratedly threatening actions or statements (such as verbal threats or ostentatious displays of military power) that are meant to intimidate an enemy by suggesting possible use of force But Jager insists that North Korean saber-rattling was aimed mostly at extorting economic aid from Washington, Seoul and other governments anxious to preserve peace at almost any price.— Mark Atwood Lawrence Iran's noisy saber rattling is only the latest lurch in its erratic foreign policy.— John Greenwald broadly : threatening statements or actions The U.S. central bank has been saber-rattling for months regarding interest rate hikes but has yet to pull the trigger amid uneven economic data. — Jeff Fox For months now, the card companies have been threatening to cut rewards programs sharply to make up for revenue lost because of the new restrictions. My guess, however, is that this talk is just so much saber-rattling. — Ron Lieber

Examples of saber-rattling in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Beyond just saber rattling, numerous commenters on the FTC’s docket are debating various ways the commission could more closely monitor drug mergers. Nicholas Florko, STAT, 7 July 2021 North Korea has a history of saber rattling when a new leader takes over the White House. Jon Herskovitz,, 8 Jan. 2021 Amy Erica Smith, a political scientist at Iowa State University who studies Brazil, said that at first glance Mr. Bolsonaro’s saber rattling against Mr. Biden might seem ludicrous. New York Times, 16 Nov. 2020 North Korea has in recent years steered clear of the type of saber rattling that brought the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war in 2017, as Pyongyang has sought to maintain good ties with Mr. Trump. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, 11 Oct. 2020 Pressure has ramped up since Tsai was first elected in 2016, with Beijing siphoning off several of Taipei's few remaining diplomatic allies and stepping up military maneuvers and saber rattling. James Griffiths, CNN, 9 Sep. 2020 Some experts say North Korea’s saber rattling was believed aimed at extracting outside concessions in the face of crippling U.S.-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. Washington Post, 26 June 2020 TULSI GABBARD Gabbard offered sharp criticism of President Trump's latest saber rattling with Iran while campaigning last night in Iowa's rural Warren County, which President Trump won by more than 16 points in the 2016 election. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, 17 Sep. 2019 After seven days of saber rattling and fresh deployments, the immediate march to war had ended. Peter Baker,, 11 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'saber-rattling.' 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 saber-rattling

1914, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of saber-rattling was in 1914

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saber saw

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Last Updated

10 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Saber-rattling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of saber-rattling

: actions and statements that are meant to frighten or threaten an enemy by suggesting the possible use of force


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