Definition of threaten in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈTHretn/


[reporting verb]
1State one’s intention to take hostile action against someone in retribution for something done or not done: [with object]: the unions threatened a general strike [with infinitive]: she made a scene and Tom threatened to leave [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, blackmail, terrorize;
make/issue threats to
1.1 [with object] Express one’s intention to harm or kill (someone): the men threatened the customers with a handgun
1.2 [with object] Cause (someone or something) to be vulnerable or at risk; endanger: a broken finger threatened his career one of four 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, jeopardize, imperil, put at risk, put in jeopardy
1.3 [with infinitive] (Of a situation or weather conditions) 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.
foreshadow, bode, warn of, presage, augur, portend, herald, be a harbinger of, indicate, point to, be a sign of, signal, spell
literary foretoken
1.4 [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.
seem likely, seem imminent, be on the horizon, be brewing, be gathering, be looming, be on the way, be impending;
hang over someone



Pronunciation: /ˈTHretnər/
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

Syllabification: threat·en

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