Definition of threaten in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈθrɛt(ə)n/


[with object]
1State one’s intention to take hostile action against (someone) in retribution for something done or not done: how dare you threaten me? the men threatened staff with a handgun [with direct speech]: ‘I might sue for damages,’ he threatened
More example sentences
  • However, his memos, which were found after his death, showed that the union threatened him to that effect.
  • We want to send a clear message to management that they cannot single out and threaten union members.
  • Tyler spoke in a quiet, menacing voice, his tone threatening anyone who dared defy him.
menace, intimidate, browbeat, bully, cow, pressurize, lean on, terrorize, frighten, scare, alarm;
make threats against, issue threats to, threaten to harm/kill
1.1State one’s intention to do (something undesirable) in retribution: the trade unions threatened a general strike [with infinitive]: she forced a scene and Toby threatened to leave
More example sentences
  • Crane operators have threatened further protest action unless their demands are met.
  • Workers have threatened further protests unless the restructuring and privatisation plans are withdrawn.
  • The journalists are threatening further action unless the plan is withdrawn.
2Cause (someone or something) to be vulnerable or at risk; endanger: a broken finger threatened his career one of four London hospitals threatened with closure
More example sentences
  • Consuming nations are threatened with a worldwide oil shortage that rattles the stock and bond markets.
  • If the nation is threatened with a national crisis, traditional political rivalry is suspended and all parties work together in the interest of national unity.
  • More than half of Madagascar's freshwater fish are threatened with extinction.
endanger, be a danger to, be a threat to, menace, imperil, put at risk, make vulnerable, expose to danger, put in jeopardy, jeopardize, drive a nail into the coffin of
archaic peril
2.1 [with infinitive] Seem likely to produce an unpleasant or unwelcome result: the dispute threatened to spread to other cities [with object]: the air was raw and threatened rain
More example sentences
  • The dispute threatens to spread to all hospitals nationwide where non-consultant hospital doctors work.
  • This threatens to skew the results in two directions.
  • High water boosted the salmon catch for the end of September, and although extreme wind and driving rain threatened to keep anglers at bay, some braved the conditions and got their reward.
warn of, be a warning of, give a warning of, promise, presage, augur, portend, foreshadow, prophesy, be an omen of;
foretell, herald, bode, announce, be a harbinger of, be an indication of, indicate, point to;
be a sign of, signal, signify, mean, spell, add up to, amount to, be evidence of
literary betoken, foretoken, forebode, harbinger
2.2 [no object] (Of something undesirable) seem likely to occur: unless war threatened, national politics remained the focus of attention
More example sentences
  • Rather, they might have set up production lines that can be activated if war threatens.
  • And now, just to make bad worse, another war was threatening.
  • Anzac Day became more intense in those days when war was once more threatening or had begun.
be likely (to happen), be imminent, be (close) at hand, be near, be close, be approaching, be on the horizon, be just around the corner, be brewing, be gathering, be looming, be coming (soon), be coming up, be on the way, be expected, be anticipated, be in prospect, be in the wind, be in the air, be forthcoming, be impending;
hang over someone
informal be on the cards



Pronunciation: /ˈθrɛt(ə)nə/
Example sentences
  • The producer had a word with me when it was over: would I feel more comfortable if he changed my hotel, away from the threateners and their entourage?
  • A protection order mandates physical separation between the parties and makes it a criminal offence for the denominated threatener to impose their mere presence on the threatened person.
  • Before she could get a clear view of the threatener, he disappeared in a wisp of black smoke.


Old English thrēatnian 'urge or induce, especially by using threats', from thrēat (see threat).

Words that rhyme with threaten

Breton, jetton, Sowetan, Tibetan

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: threat¦en

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