threat·​en | \ ˈthre-tᵊn How to pronounce threaten (audio) \
threatened; threatening\ ˈthret-​niŋ How to pronounce threatening (audio) , ˈthre-​tᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of threaten

transitive verb

1 : to utter threats against
2a : to give signs or warning of : portend the clouds threatened rain
b : to hang over dangerously : menace famine threatens the city
3 : to announce as intended or possible the workers threatened a strike
4 : to cause to feel insecure or anxious felt threatened by his brother's success

intransitive verb

1 : to utter threats
2 : to portend evil

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Other Words from threaten

threatener \ ˈthret-​nər How to pronounce threatener (audio) , ˈthre-​tᵊn-​ər \ noun

Examples of threaten in a Sentence

The mugger threatened him with a gun. She threatened to quit if they didn't give her a raise, but no one believed her. Civil war has been threatening the country for years. a marriage threatened by financial problems Overfishing threatens the survival of certain fish species. The latest news threatens trouble for the economy.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Sunday’s conditions were far from ideal, as a constant rainstorm pelted riders and flooded FDR drive, requiring cyclists to coast through lakes that threatened to pull them under. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "E-Biking My Way Through New York's Five Boro Bike Tour," 9 May 2019 Already, the Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo trifecta seems threatened—though of course, Microsoft’s set to reveal its own Project xCloud streaming solution sometime soon, maybe even as early as E3. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "Google's Stadia game-streaming service lets you play games anywhere, if your Internet can handle it," 19 Mar. 2019 Know that feeling angry, threatened or fearful in response to unsolicited sexts is completely valid. Suzannah Weiss, Glamour, "Your Complete Guide to Sending and Receiving Nude Photos," 30 Apr. 2019 The invasive fish are scaring away tourists and threatening recreational fishing businesses, since most anglers seek crappies... Cameron Mcwhirter, WSJ, "Carp Attack: Fight Against Invasive Fish Heads South," 19 Apr. 2019 That doesn't sound like a person who feels threatened at all (or with a pretty limited vocabulary). Bridget Read, Vogue, "We Would Swipe Right on Chris Hayes," 2 Apr. 2019 According to The Washington Post, House Seargent-at-Arms Paul D. Irving told lawmakers on Tuesday that threatening communications have tripled in recent years. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Called Out Right-Wing Attacks and Death Threats Against Them," 11 Apr. 2019 The Air Force is concerned that such junk banging around inside aircraft during flight could cause damage, particularly to the aircraft’s electrical system, threatening the safety of the aircraft. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Air Force Stops Deliveries of Trash-Filled KC-46 Tankers Yet Again," 3 Apr. 2019 Egypt has repeatedly tried to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, stepping up efforts in recent days after a Gaza rocket struck a house in central Israel earlier this week, injuring seven Israelis and threatening renewed escalation. Fares Akram, The Seattle Times, "Rockets from Gaza Strip hit Israel; 4 die at border protest," 31 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'threaten.' 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 threaten

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for threaten

Last Updated

17 May 2019

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Time Traveler for threaten

The first known use of threaten was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for threaten



English Language Learners Definition of threaten

: to say that you will harm someone or do something unpleasant or unwanted especially in order to make someone do what you want
: to be something that is likely to cause harm to (someone or something) : to be a threat to (someone or something)


threat·​en | \ ˈthre-tᵊn How to pronounce threaten (audio) \
threatened; threatening

Kids Definition of threaten

1 : to show an intention to do harm or something unwanted He threatened to quit.
2 : to give warning of by an indication The clouds threatened rain.

Other Words from threaten

threateningly adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on threaten

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with threaten

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for threaten

Spanish Central: Translation of threaten

Nglish: Translation of threaten for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of threaten for Arabic Speakers

Comments on threaten

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