\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)


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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And this time is different from Facebook’s reboot in response to the smartphone threat. Casey Newton, The Verge, "The fake video era of US politics has arrived on Twitter," 9 Nov. 2018 The threats to American democracy can’t be resolved in one election. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Trump has eroded important democratic institutions. Will Democratic wins change that?," 8 Nov. 2018 But a big reason the Seahawks have been able to run the ball so efficiently is because of the threat Wilson presents. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "To make playoffs, Seahawks need Russell Wilson to be better than good," 7 Nov. 2018 These women were denied equal pay and opportunities and were discouraged from speaking out by threats of termination. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Riot Games sued over allegations of sexual harassment, pay disparity," 7 Nov. 2018 Cars remain the greatest threat to commuters, killing over 40,000 people in the U.S. yearly. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Bird, Lime named in class-action lawsuit," 22 Oct. 2018 For Wish, the threat of postal rate hikes sound like a big problem for now — even if the rhetoric turns out later to have just been a negotiating tactic. Jason Del Rey, Recode, "Trump’s latest China threat could crush the $8 billion Amazon competitor Wish. Here’s its plan to fight back.," 18 Oct. 2018 But growing interest in the mental risks of space travel — which NASA lists as one of the biggest threats to astronauts — has spawned a wave of new research and technology. Stephen Ornes, Discover Magazine, "Want to be a Mars Astronaut? You'll Need the Proper Mindset," 16 Oct. 2018 So in a weird way, the farm could be seen as giving permission to Alice to pursue F.P. The bigger threat to them will be the fact that Alice is married to Hal and F.P. is married to Gladys. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "Here's What's Going to Happen This Season of Riverdale," 10 Oct. 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.

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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

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Statistics for threat

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for threat

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

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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

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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).


something that serves to warn or remind

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