Definition of threaten in English:

threaten

verb

[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’
    • ‘Tyler spoke in a quiet, menacing voice, his tone threatening anyone who dared defy him.’
    • ‘I had shot with the intent to kill when a mother and her child were threatened.’
    • ‘One man threatened to stab me; I had to go, but I was so afraid for him.’
    • ‘Three armed robbers wearing balaclavas stole a large amount of clothing from a children's clothes shop after threatening the owner with a machete.’
    • ‘We want to send a clear message to management that they cannot single out and threaten union members.’
    • ‘The disciples of Jesus, like their master, were also threatened by enemies.’
    • ‘Despite two restraining orders and a spell in jail, he continued to threaten her, and was planning to kill her when he was finally arrested.’
    • ‘However, his memos, which were found after his death, showed that the union threatened him to that effect.’
    • ‘He said that he had tried to leave the scene but that one of his friends had threatened him if he didn't help them.’
    • ‘In one incident, a manager was threatened with a knife.’
    • ‘Three men who seriously sexually assaulted a 27-year-old woman are thought to have been involved in a later incident where unarmed police were threatened with a shotgun.’
    • ‘Moments later he was threatened at knifepoint by the man who spoke with a heavy Irish accent.’
    • ‘A distraught woman has called the station reporting that her partner is threatening her and we speed to the scene.’
    • ‘A store manager was threatened with a knife as robbers made off with £800 in an armed raid on a Burnley hire shop.’
    • ‘Instead the black-haired woman kept her gaze focused on him, coiled to act if anything dared threaten her.’
    • ‘The majority of stalkers who threatened their victims subsequently acted upon their stated intentions.’
    • ‘I am a non-violent person and I would not intentionally threaten Mike or anyone else for that matter.’
    • ‘Mr Galloway says he was forced to hide in his car after the men denounced him as a false prophet and threatened him with ‘the gallows’.’
    • ‘The balaclava-clad men used a beer barrel to smash their way into the building and threatened staff before escaping with an undisclosed amount of cash.’
    • ‘She had no intention of doing so, but she could threaten him.’
    menace, intimidate, browbeat, bully, cow, pressurize, lean on, terrorize, frighten, scare, alarm
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 State 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’
      • ‘He warned clubs threatening to boycott the two-day meeting that they would face sanctions.’
      • ‘Cyprus has also threatened to veto Turkey's application over its refusal to recognise the Greek Cypriot government.’
      • ‘During the dispute, police threatened to arrest two striking workers on the basis of accusations made by government supporters.’
      • ‘The workers have threatened to continue the dispute, with a two-day strike next week and a further three days the following week.’
      • ‘Other transport operators are threatening to join the dispute’
      • ‘Over the years, the band has had many internal disputes, with members threatening to quit and going for long periods without talking to each other.’
      • ‘The journalists are threatening further action unless the plan is withdrawn.’
      • ‘They threatened more violence unless Jakarta took action against his killers.’
      • ‘The US government has also threatened to boycott the conference if it delves into the issue of slavery reparations.’
      • ‘Murphy was furious and threatened repeatedly to sue the production company.’
      • ‘But the more the critics threaten to leave, the more difficult it will be for them to change course.’
      • ‘His girlfriend has allegedly threatened to kill herself if he dumps her.’
      • ‘He vehemently denies the allegations of theft and is now threatening to sue White for libel.’
      • ‘She has even threatened to resign rather than sack teachers.’
      • ‘The administration opposed that provision from the start and even threatened to veto the bill over it.’
      • ‘Crane operators have threatened further protest action unless their demands are met.’
      • ‘Although the change would not take effect until 2013, the unions threatened industrial action.’
      • ‘The government of Peru is now threatening to sue the university.’
      • ‘The latter demanded that both parties agree to arbitrate their dispute and threatened to impose heavy fines.’
      • ‘Workers have threatened further protests unless the restructuring and privatisation plans are 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’
    • ‘Never should the great courses be threatened with obsolescence because of greed and contempt for the treasures of the game.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He now faces returning to Greece in November for the appeal hearing and his haulage business is threatened with bankruptcy, with his lorry impounded by the Greek authorities.’
    • ‘The only remaining post office in Kew mysteriously closed its doors last week at a time when branches in various parts of the borough are threatened with the axe.’
    • ‘Fears have been expressed that as many as 100,000 plant species are currently threatened with extinction worldwide.’
    • ‘A year ago the inpatients ward was threatened with closure but was saved at the last minute when the doctors surgeries agreed to provide cover.’
    • ‘However, the numbers enrolling for chemistry, physics and maths degree courses are dropping and university science departments are threatened with closure.’
    • ‘I have, since it was first threatened with closure, been a staunch campaigner both locally and in Parliament to save the maternity unit.’
    • ‘One in five of Britain's wild flower species is threatened with extinction, according to the most detailed analysis to date of British flora.’
    • ‘The result is that some 12 percent of mammal species and 11 percent of birds and plants are threatened with extinction.’
    • ‘Consuming nations are threatened with a worldwide oil shortage that rattles the stock and bond markets.’
    • ‘Both bird life (including the Kiwi) and many unique types of trees are threatened with extinction because of the brushtail possum.’
    • ‘More than half of Madagascar's freshwater fish are threatened with extinction.’
    • ‘More than a few species, even humans, may be threatened by climate change.’
    • ‘He spent millions on his art collection, yachts, and palatial homes, including a castle in Wales, reining in only when his media empire was threatened with bankruptcy.’
    • ‘Climate change threatens Britain's crumbling transport system’
    • ‘Oil drilling would likely threaten and compromise B.C. industries, such as tourism, and commercial and recreational fishing.’
    • ‘Many of the nearly 700 species of indigenous plants are threatened with extinction.’
    • ‘With the birth rate half of that in 1990 and mortality 50% higher, the country is threatened with rapid depopulation.’
    • ‘They are not threatened with relegation yet, but if they do not alter their disappointing curve they could be treading that line before long.’
    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
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    1. 2.1with 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’
      • ‘The transatlantic dispute over genetic engineering threatens to be much more divisive.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, a dispute which threatened to cause similar disruption in Tralee has been averted.’
      • ‘The dispute threatened to stop production lines at four car companies in Victoria and South Australia.’
      • ‘The dispute threatens to spread to all hospitals nationwide where non-consultant hospital doctors work.’
      • ‘This threatens to skew the results in two directions.’
      • ‘Over all loomed the escalating costs of war that threatened to drive the nation into bankruptcy.’
      • ‘The day had gotten considerably cooler since lunch and the grey clouds overhead now threatened to rain down on them.’
      • ‘There were heavy downpours even before Scotland's biggest rock and pop festival kicked off and the rain threatened to upstage the performers.’
      • ‘It was an overcast day, the light hidden behind grey clouds that smothered the sky and threatened to rain.’
      • ‘The dispute threatened to delay the drafting of a constitution, just three days before a deadline for it to be approved by parliament.’
      • ‘As a council worker there have been a number of issues that threatened to turn into disputes, but concessions have been made by employers to avoid them.’
      • ‘The rain which threatened to pour didn't fail to dampen the spirit of the crowd who were determined to get into the spirit of things.’
      • ‘Last night they huddled together in sleeping bags as a bone-chilling wind and rain threatened to crack their resolve.’
      • ‘By mid-2003, lack of rain threatened to push them over that edge.’
      • ‘A dispute with Jordan which threatened to get messy had been resolved amicably, he said.’
      • ‘The company commander ordered a withdrawal as the enemy threatened to encircle and isolate the company.’
      • ‘Regardless of which side straddles the high moral ground, the dispute is threatening to derail the country's finest ever campaign in a major football tournament.’
      • ‘The day from about 1 p.m. was dark and wet and in fact a half hour before start, torrential rain threatened to mar the occasion.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Rain threatened to mar the occasion but a light shower ended before the first round was fired.’
      warn of, be a warning of, give a warning of, promise, presage, augur, portend, foreshadow, prophesy, be an omen of
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    2. 2.2no object (of something undesirable) seem likely to occur.
      ‘unless war threatened, national politics remained the focus of attention’
      • ‘Anzac Day became more intense in those days when war was once more threatening or had begun.’
      • ‘By 1914 and the final stages of the bill, civil war threatened in Britain and Ireland with the option of partition, temporary or permanent, as the only alternative.’
      • ‘Lots of the local farmers bred horses and sold them to the Army, especially when wars threatened.’
      • ‘Now a war is threatening and loads of boys are packing up to get themselves a piece of the ‘glory’.’
      • ‘Fearing the consequences as World War II threatened, FDR asked him to call off the march.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Given his proven record in command, Franz Josef selected Benedek to command the Habsburg North Army in early 1866 when war with Prussia threatened.’
      • ‘A trade war threatened and a giant global corporation was brought to its knees.’
      • ‘When war threatened, von Tempsky offered his services to the Government.’
      be likely, be likely to happen, be imminent, be at hand, 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, 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
      View synonyms

Origin

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

Pronunciation

threaten

/ˈθrɛt(ə)n/