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[thret-n] /ˈθrɛt n/
verb (used with object)
to utter a threat against; menace:
He threatened the boy with a beating.
to be a menace or source of danger to:
Sickness threatened her peace of mind.
to offer (a punishment, injury, etc.) by way of a threat:
They threatened swift retaliation.
to give an ominous indication of:
The clouds threaten rain.
verb (used without object)
to utter or use threats.
to indicate impending evil or mischief.
before 1000; Middle English thretnen, Old English thrēatnian, derivative of thrēat pressure, oppression. See threat, -en1
Related forms
threatener, noun
outthreaten, verb (used with object)
prethreaten, verb (used with object)
rethreaten, verb
2. endanger.
2. protect, defend. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for threaten
  • Weight training is crucial, of course, but never so much as to threaten injury.
  • Yet, huge global risks threaten to impede the pace of innovation.
  • Opponents of the industry claim cod farming will add to coastal pollution and further threaten salmon and sea trout populations.
  • When temperatures threaten to dip below zero, bring the container into the garage or wrap it in a frost blanket.
  • But weather continues to threaten delay as wave after wave of tropical storms moves through the region.
  • Sometimes it is better to threaten a lawsuit rather than file one.
  • Deforestation and the introduction of dogs, cats and mongooses that eat solenodons threaten to drive the critters to extinction.
  • See how its diversions, dams, and drought have altered river flow and threaten to change the lives of millions of people.
  • These activities threaten the survival and faithful replication of chromosomes and, consequently, of the cells housing them.
  • The carriers argue that open phones would threaten the network.
British Dictionary definitions for threaten


(transitive) to be a threat to
to be a menacing indication of (something); portend: dark clouds threatened rain
(when transitive, may take a clause as object) to express a threat to (a person or people)
Derived Forms
threatener, noun
threatening, adjective
threateningly, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for threaten

Old English þreatnian (see threat). Related: Threatened. Threatening in the sense of "portending no good" is recorded from 1520s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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