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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.
Origin of threaten
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for threaten
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The latter meets the gaze of Lantanas with a sullen look, which seems to threaten disobedience.

  • But that nevertheless he will not threaten either his own life, or that of any other man.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • Our Emperor will see to it that there will be no British Empire to threaten our mercantile supremacy.

    Billy Barcroft, R.N.A.S. Percy F. Westerman
  • Never again attempt to threaten people of property and station.

    Night and Morning, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Was it wise of him to work for the coming of a man who might threaten his own power?

    The Cathedral Sir Hugh Walpole
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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