\ ˈthret How to pronounce threat (audio) \

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

Noun 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 The tropical threat to the Sunshine State comes as officials continue to grapple with a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the past one to two months. Andrew Freedman, Washington Post, "Isaias nears Florida coast, is poised to affect entire Eastern Seaboard with heavy rain, strong winds," 2 Aug. 2020 Amid the looming threat that baseball could be shut down because of the sport’s coronavirus outbreak, the Giants are hitting the road for their longest trip of the season. John Shea,, "Giants begin longest trip amid baseball’s coronavirus outbreak," 2 Aug. 2020 Such is life for a good while longer: Where real games unfold in unreal circumstances, with the threat that the games could disappear at any moment. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "COVID-19 challenging how every sports league operates. And challenging us as fans, too," 1 Aug. 2020 Trump's threat comes as the administration is investigating whether the app's parent company, ByteDance, is harvesting the data of millions of American users. Editors, USA TODAY, "Trump's TikTok ban, Hurricane Isaias, NHL's return: 5 things to know this weekend," 1 Aug. 2020 On one border is Russia, posing a physical threat to the bloc’s eastern members and a digital one to the rest. The Economist, "Charlemagne Europe still lacks a foreign policy," 1 Aug. 2020 Now, advocacy groups are warning of another looming threat which could further weaken the killer whale population: the U.S. Navy. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Endangered orcas at risk from U.S. Navy, activists warn," 31 July 2020 Perry reasonably perceived a threat to his life when, as has now been confirmed by independent witnesses, Mr. Foster raised his assault rifle toward Sgt. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Army sergeant identifies himself as man who shot Black Lives Matter protester in Austin," 31 July 2020 Jio’s massive ecosystem is viewed as an emerging threat that has India’s small businesses worried for the same reasons that the US is scrutinising big tech. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "The US antitrust hearings on big tech have an important lesson for India," 31 July 2020

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

Time Traveler for threat

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for threat

Last Updated

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Threat.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for threat


How to pronounce threat (audio)

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 How to pronounce threat (audio) \

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!