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 His nuclear saber rattling at the start of the invasion, for example, triggered widespread alarm in the West and speculation about the mental and emotional state of the man with his finger on Russia’s nuclear button. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 4 Apr. 2022 The hammer blow of US and other Western sanctions that slammed into the Russian economy this week, and Putin's consequent nuclear saber rattling, are likely to also shut off relations with the Russian government for months, if not permanently. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 3 Mar. 2022 Even in the face of Putin’s strategic nuclear saber rattling and concerns about Russia’s use of tactical nuclear weapons, however, the arms control framework has held sufficiently firm to preserve strategic stability. Miles A. Pomper, The Conversation, 10 Mar. 2022 All the saber rattling has certainly been terrible for Ukraine’s economy. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Feb. 2022 The Beijing Games open against a backdrop of charges of Uyghur genocide, human rights affronts in Tibet and Hong Kong, saber rattling over Taiwan, and a widespread diplomatic boycott. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Feb. 2022 This is a major geo-economic step to mitigate Russian saber rattling over Ukraine amidst an energy crisis on the continent. Ariel Cohen, Forbes, 28 Jan. 2022 Subsequent attacks in Chad – plus rebellion in North Korea – spark heated exchanges and saber rattling, plus increasingly violent face-saving maneuvers, between the superpowers behind the scenes: the U.S. and China. Erin Douglass, The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Nov. 2021 After sending a record number of military aircraft to harass Taiwan over China’s National Day holiday, Beijing has toned down the saber rattling but tensions remain high, with the rhetoric and reasoning behind the exercises unchanged. David Rising, ajc, 14 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

17 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Saber-rattling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2022.

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