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 The victim was hit, but suffered from a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, and was later transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center, Burkhead said. Joe Mario Pedersen,, "Victim hurt in drive-by shooting in Apopka," 11 Nov. 2019 Woodward was killed and the other man suffered non-life-threatening wounds. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Community activist Camille Mays' son shot to death," 11 Nov. 2019 Because Ig is used to treat a variety of life-threatening conditions, the demand continues to grow. Megan Ryan, STAT, "My life depends on medicine made from plasma. The plasma shortage worries me," 8 Nov. 2019 When Joe is in a life-threatening accident, his soul is separated from his body and transported to the You Seminar, a center where souls develop and gain passions before being transported to a newborn child. Katherine Schaffstall, The Hollywood Reporter, "Jamie Foxx Encourages Others to Pursue Passions in Pixar's 'Soul' Teaser Trailer," 7 Nov. 2019 Ford has to work harder, playing quippy blindness, comedically blowing out a torch when the Ewok tribe threaten to roast him on a spit. Darren Franich,, "Return of the Jedi," 6 Nov. 2019 Nausea, vomiting, confusion, and more These seemingly disparate symptoms are all signs of a rare and life-threatening state called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "10 Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Sugar to Be Aware Of," 6 Nov. 2019 She's continued to reflect on this life-threatening experience, most recently in an interview with People. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Emilia Clarke Reveals the 'Unsung Heroes' Behind Her Life-Saving Brain Surgeries," 6 Nov. 2019 To put it another way, when a country’s symbols are threatened, many people take it personally. David Banks, The Conversation, "Why doesn’t the US just send Anne Sacoolas back to the UK? Here’s what’s at stake in this dispute over diplomatic immunity," 1 Nov. 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

15 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for threaten

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

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More Definitions for threaten


How to pronounce threaten (audio)

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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