threat·en | \ ˈthre-tᵊn \
threatened; threatening\ˈthret-niŋ, 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, 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

Here, then, is clear evidence that people enjoy the sensations that accompany the fight or flight response within a non-threatening environment. Richard Stephens, Smithsonian, "The History and Psychology of Roller Coasters," 12 July 2018 Both men suffered non-life-threatening injuries during the exchange and are expected to recover., "Two men injured after Friday night shooting in Pendleton County, police say," 14 July 2018 The three other victims were taken by ambulance to Columbia St. Mary's in Grafton with non-life-threatening injuries. Adriana Ramirez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Shorewood man charged in connection with five-car accident in Grafton," 13 July 2018 Both patients are reportedly stable, with non-life-threatening injuries. Jennifer Earl, Fox News, "Florida beaches closed after shark attacks leave 2 injured: report," 13 July 2018 The other victim, whose name was not released, was treated for a non-life-threatening injury, Smith said. Nathan J. Fish, azcentral, "Police: Suspect in Glendale shootings arrested after fleeing to Texas," 13 July 2018 The man, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center with minor, non-life-threatening injuries, Gipson said. Jason Kelly, ajc, "Man stunned as alligator sneaks up, bites his leg in neighborhood park pond," 12 July 2018 Authorities first announced the shooting with a 5:33 p.m. tweet that said the male victim suffered non life-threatening injuries. Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press, "Police: Suspected road rage shooting on I-94, freeway closed," 11 July 2018 The motorcyclist reportedly has life-threatening injuries. Ruth Brown, idahostatesman, "Motorcyclist injured on eastbound I-84 off-ramp, traffic diverted," 11 July 2018

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

20 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \
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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Comments on threaten

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


occurring twice a year or every two years

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