\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)


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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, compared the danger of Russian cyberattacks to the stream of terrorist threats against the United States before Sept. 11, 2001., "Crossed signals on Russia show Trump untethered from advisers," 14 July 2018 Third, Friday’s move also appears to show that the Mueller team and top Department of Justice officials such as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are unintimidated by political threats against them. Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor, "What new Mueller indictments say about his direction," 13 July 2018 President Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out at critics who called for the abolition of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and made threats against Homeland Security Department workers. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "On eve of Independence Day, Trump salutes military and 'tough' ICE immigration agents," 3 July 2018 The alleged threats against Pai's family come amid a broader debate about civility in politics. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "Man arrested on charges of threatening to kill FCC chairman's family," 29 June 2018 The second email contained an explicit threat against members of Pai’s family, as well as a listing of three locations in and around Arlington, Virginia where Pai is said to live. Nick Statt, The Verge, "California man arrested for threatening to kill FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s family over net neutrality," 29 June 2018 Yet the shooting — one of the deadliest days for journalists in years — arrived as questions of civility dominate the national discussion, and as a climate of anger and threats against the media persists. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Trump: Journalists should be “free from the fear of being violently attacked”," 29 June 2018 Kentucky’s defense – like most teams -- has been particularly prone to struggles against dual-threat quarterbacks like Jackson in recent years, so being able to worry less about the quarterback run with Pass under center could be key. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "How Kentucky football can win (or lose) against Louisville in 2018," 13 July 2018 Aunt Jane, on the other hand, posed no threat to Emma, likely contributing to their closeness. Mica Mcgriggs, Teen Vogue, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Celebrated the 40-Year Anniversary of the Lifted Ban Against Black Members," 11 July 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.

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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

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Statistics for threat

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for threat

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

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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

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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).


one that holds something together

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