\ ˈthret \

Definition of threat 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage

2 : one that threatens

3 : an indication of something impending the sky held a threat of rain


threated; threating; threats

Definition of threat (Entry 2 of 2)


Keep scrolling for more

Examples of threat in a Sentence


He was willing to use violence and threats to get what he wanted. She ignored their threats and continued to do what she felt was right. a country under threat of civil war
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This is partly because, for now at least, ISWAP poses little direct threat to Western countries. The Economist, "The fight against Islamic State is moving to Africa," 14 July 2018 The charging document alleges that Jones was previously convicted of making criminal threats, in 2017. CBS News, "Woman charged with attempted murder in beating of man, 92, with brick," 13 July 2018 That potentially makes the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets major threats. Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "Why All-Star Kemba Walker’s New York ties should worry Charlotte Hornets," 13 July 2018 Botha is just a stock villain, making threats and occasionally carrying them out. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "'Skyscraper:' Big, dumb and kind of fun, thanks to Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell," 12 July 2018 The charging document alleges that Jones was previously convicted of making criminal threats in 2017, in an unrelated case. Brittny Mejia,, "Woman accused of attacking 91-year-old is charged with attempted murder," 12 July 2018 Lott was sentenced in 1988 to more than 200 years for rape, robbery, burglary and making a bomb threat related to the 1987 attack on a woman at her home in Ada, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City. Ken Miller, Fox News, "Innocence Project: DNA frees Oklahoma man convicted of rape," 10 July 2018 Matlak, who was charged with three felonies, pleaded guilty to one count of making a criminal threat. City News Service,, "Torrey Pines High grad pleads guilty to making school threats," 10 July 2018 But when that failed, the US reportedly put the squeeze on countries backing the resolution by making aggressive trade and military threats—a move that further stunned the assembly. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "US puts fierce squeeze on breastfeeding policy, shocking health officials," 9 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'threat.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of threat


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for threat


Middle English thret coercion, threat, from Old English thrēat coercion; akin to Middle High German drōz annoyance, Latin trudere to push, thrust

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about threat

Statistics for threat

Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for threat

The first known use of threat was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for threat



English Language Learners Definition of threat

: a statement saying you will be harmed if you do not do what someone wants you to do

: someone or something that could cause trouble, harm, etc.

: the possibility that something bad or harmful could happen


\ ˈthret \

Kids Definition of threat

1 : the act of showing an intention to do harm

2 : someone or something that threatens the threat of punishment



Legal Definition of threat 

: an expression of an intention to injure another : menace sense 1 criminal laws against making terroristic threats

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on threat

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


to make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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