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 After seven days of saber rattling and fresh deployments, the immediate march to war had ended. Peter Baker,, "Seven days in January: How the US and Iran approached the brink of war," 11 Jan. 2020 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, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Gabbard says Trump trying to "pimp out our military" to Saudi Arabia," 17 Sep. 2019 One important reason countries are willing to wield trade as a weapon, experts say, is that President Trump has normalized saber rattling in world markets. Justin Worland, Time, "How Trump Unwittingly Paved the Way for a Climate Change Breakthrough at the G-7," 26 Aug. 2019 But with the White House’s aggressive saber rattling would seem to make that less likely. Casey Newton, The Verge, "It’s time to end “trending” on Twitter," 13 Aug. 2019 The administration’s saber rattling in Iran will likely force a foreign policy conversation, if one heavily weighted toward the Persian Gulf. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Give Democrats a Chance to Get Serious in Their First Debates," 26 June 2019 And also able to turn on the charm, after all of these years of threats and saber rattling and things. CBS News, "Transcript: Anna Fifield talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"," 19 June 2019 Even some of the staunchest U.S. allies were begrudgingly forced to side with Maduro in condemning Trump's saber rattling. Joshua Goodman, Fox News, "US official: Trump pressed aides about Venezuela invasion," 4 July 2018

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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Cite this Entry

“Saber-rattling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.

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How to pronounce saber-rattling (audio)

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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