sa·​ber-rat·​tling | \ ˈsā-bər-ˌrat-liŋ How to pronounce saber-rattling (audio) , -ˌra-tᵊl-iŋ \
variants: or saber rattling or chiefly British sabre-rattling or sabre rattling

Definition of saber-rattling

: overtly and often exaggeratedly threatening actions or statements (such as verbal threats or ostentatious displays of military power) that are meant to intimidate an enemy by suggesting possible use of force But Jager insists that North Korean saber-rattling was aimed mostly at extorting economic aid from Washington, Seoul and other governments anxious to preserve peace at almost any price.— Mark Atwood Lawrence Iran's noisy saber rattling is only the latest lurch in its erratic foreign policy.— John Greenwald broadly : threatening statements or actions The U.S. central bank has been saber-rattling for months regarding interest rate hikes but has yet to pull the trigger amid uneven economic data. — Jeff Fox For months now, the card companies have been threatening to cut rewards programs sharply to make up for revenue lost because of the new restrictions. My guess, however, is that this talk is just so much saber-rattling. — Ron Lieber

Examples of saber-rattling in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Subsequent attacks in Chad – plus rebellion in North Korea – spark heated exchanges and saber rattling, plus increasingly violent face-saving maneuvers, between the superpowers behind the scenes: the U.S. and China. Erin Douglass, The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Nov. 2021 After sending a record number of military aircraft to harass Taiwan over China’s National Day holiday, Beijing has toned down the saber rattling but tensions remain high, with the rhetoric and reasoning behind the exercises unchanged. David Rising, ajc, 14 Oct. 2021 Despite the saber rattling, Essele argued that politicians in both parties have too much to lose to play chicken with the nation’s credit rating. NBC News, 13 Sep. 2021 In a kind of saber rattling detailing their strongest legal arguments, lawyers on both sides try to project confidence that the First Amendment and related case law on its protections of religion are working in their favor. The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Aug. 2021 White House aides are encouraged that, so far, both the liberals and moderates have engaged in mere saber rattling with no red lines drawn. Nick Perry, ajc, 12 Aug. 2021 Beyond just saber rattling, numerous commenters on the FTC’s docket are debating various ways the commission could more closely monitor drug mergers. Nicholas Florko, STAT, 7 July 2021 North Korea has a history of saber rattling when a new leader takes over the White House. Jon Herskovitz,, 8 Jan. 2021 Amy Erica Smith, a political scientist at Iowa State University who studies Brazil, said that at first glance Mr. Bolsonaro’s saber rattling against Mr. Biden might seem ludicrous. New York Times, 16 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'saber-rattling.' 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 saber-rattling

1914, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About saber-rattling

Time Traveler for saber-rattling

Time Traveler

The first known use of saber-rattling was in 1914

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near saber-rattling



saber saw

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for saber-rattling

Last Updated

13 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Saber-rattling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for saber-rattling



English Language Learners Definition of saber-rattling

: actions and statements that are meant to frighten or threaten an enemy by suggesting the possible use of force


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

True or False

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

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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