threaten

verb
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

Newsletter Sign-up None of the officers’ injuries was life threatening, police said. Joe Barrett, WSJ, "Aurora Shooter Was Terminated, Then Killed Plant Manager, HR and Factory Workers," 16 Feb. 2019 Brown's death calls to attention the worrying trend of dangerous and potentially life-threatening accidents with e-cigarettes. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Texas Man Dies After Exploding E-Cigarette Sends Shrapnel into His Neck," 5 Feb. 2019 The decision Caal Maquin and her father made was a life-threatening one. Dara Lind, Vox, "The death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin in Border Patrol custody isn’t an isolated outrage," 18 Dec. 2018 The stories of Better Worlds are not intended to be conflict-free utopias or Pollyanna-ish paeans about how tech will solve everything; many are set in societies where people face challenges, sometimes life-threatening ones. The Verge, "Better Worlds," 5 Dec. 2018 But black women’s anger is seen as especially threatening, especially to white people who aren’t keen on women being terribly emotional to begin with. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Racist, Sexist History of Tennis," 18 Sep. 2018 An influx of tourists over the course of decades had inundated the tomb with humidity, dust, and carbon dioxide; scratches and abrasions were also threatening the longevity of the wall paintings. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "King Tut's Tomb Is Reopening—And This Time, It's Tourist-Proof," 1 Feb. 2019 Nearly 1 million women have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner, and approximately 4.5 million American women have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner. Shannon Watts, Vogue, "Toxic Masculinity Is Killing Us," 31 Jan. 2019 At the border, the father/son pair is threatened by the police and told not to enter the town, despite their residence there. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "The "Riverdale" Mid-Season Finale Left Us Shook and With Multiple Questions," 13 Dec. 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

22 Feb 2019

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

threaten

verb

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)

threaten

verb
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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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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