\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)


Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

About the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig Explosion was published in 2011, has received several death threats. Sarah Hurtes, Harper's BAZAAR, "Women Who Risk Everything to Defend the Environment," 30 Nov. 2018 In the meantime, the threat to privacy has evolved as well—especially as the mass adoption of smartphones has placed a trackable, network connected device within reach of billions of people on the planet. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "The Snowden Legacy, part one: What’s changed, really?," 21 Nov. 2018 Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images More than a month after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford is still getting death threats. Anna North, Vox, "Christine Blasey Ford has a security detail because she still receives threats," 8 Nov. 2018 President Trump hopes the threat of new tariffs will push Germany’s car makers to lobby Berlin, which would in turn use Germany’s clout as the EU’s largest economy to expedite talks on the trans-Atlantic trade deal with U.S., the official said. William Boston, WSJ, "U.S. Weighs Inviting German Auto CEOs to White House to Press for More U.S.-Based Production," 21 Nov. 2018 Evergrande invested in Faraday Future at the end of 2017, during a time when the EV startup was facing the real threat of running out of cash. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Trump administration criticizes Chinese company’s attempted takeover of Faraday Future," 21 Nov. 2018 Instead, the Spencers became convinced that Gersh's offer to sell the property was part of an extortion attempt to use the threat of protests to force Spencer to sell her property for below-market rates. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Judge rejects neo-Nazi’s First Amendment argument in harassment case," 15 Nov. 2018 In addition, Mar-a-Lago is in threat of chronic flooding by the end of the century, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Climate change and the coming coastal real estate crash," 16 Oct. 2018 If there is an immediate threat of harm, call 911 or your school's emergency number. Seventeen Magazine, Seventeen, "Here's How To Help A Friend Who's Struggling," 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about threat

Statistics for threat

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for threat

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on threat

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with threat

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for threat

Spanish Central: Translation of threat

Nglish: Translation of threat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of threat for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about threat

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).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!