Definition of threaten in English:



  • 1reporting verb State 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘In one incident, a manager was threatened with a knife.’
    • ‘Instead the black-haired woman kept her gaze focused on him, coiled to act if anything dared threaten her.’
    • ‘Tyler spoke in a quiet, menacing voice, his tone threatening anyone who dared defy 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The disciples of Jesus, like their master, were also threatened by enemies.’
    • ‘Moments later he was threatened at knifepoint by the man who spoke with a heavy Irish accent.’
    • ‘One man threatened to stab me; I had to go, but I was so afraid for him.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We want to send a clear message to management that they cannot single out and threaten union members.’
    • ‘I had shot with the intent to kill when a mother and her child were threatened.’
    • ‘She had no intention of doing so, but she could threaten him.’
    • ‘The majority of stalkers who threatened their victims subsequently acted upon their stated intentions.’
    • ‘A distraught woman has called the station reporting that her partner is threatening her and we speed to the scene.’
    • ‘However, his memos, which were found after his death, showed that the union threatened him to that effect.’
    • ‘A store manager was threatened with a knife as robbers made off with £800 in an armed raid on a Burnley hire shop.’
    menace, intimidate, browbeat, bully, cow, pressurize, lean on, terrorize, frighten, scare, alarm
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    1. 1.1with object Express one's intention to harm or kill (someone)
      ‘the men threatened the customers with a handgun’
    2. 1.2with 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’
      • ‘One in five of Britain's wild flower species is threatened with extinction, according to the most detailed analysis to date of British flora.’
      • ‘More than half of Madagascar's freshwater fish are threatened with extinction.’
      • ‘I have, since it was first threatened with closure, been a staunch campaigner both locally and in Parliament to save the maternity unit.’
      • ‘Never should the great courses be threatened with obsolescence because of greed and contempt for the treasures of the game.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘However, the numbers enrolling for chemistry, physics and maths degree courses are dropping and university science departments are threatened with closure.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Climate change threatens Britain's crumbling transport system’
      • ‘Consuming nations are threatened with a worldwide oil shortage that rattles the stock and bond markets.’
      • ‘More than a few species, even humans, may be threatened by climate change.’
      • ‘Both bird life (including the Kiwi) and many unique types of trees are threatened with extinction because of the brushtail possum.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Fears have been expressed that as many as 100,000 plant species are currently threatened with extinction worldwide.’
      • ‘Oil drilling would likely threaten and compromise B.C. industries, such as tourism, and commercial and recreational fishing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They are not threatened with relegation yet, but if they do not alter their disappointing curve they could be treading that line before long.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Many of the nearly 700 species of indigenous plants are threatened with extinction.’
      • ‘The result is that some 12 percent of mammal species and 11 percent of birds and 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.’
      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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    3. 1.3with 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’
      • ‘Over all loomed the escalating costs of war that threatened to drive the nation into bankruptcy.’
      • ‘The company commander ordered a withdrawal as the enemy threatened to encircle and isolate the company.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The day had gotten considerably cooler since lunch and the grey clouds overhead now threatened to rain down on 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.’
      • ‘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 dispute threatened to stop production lines at four car companies in Victoria and South Australia.’
      • ‘Rain threatened to mar the occasion but a light shower ended before the first round was fired.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The dispute threatens to spread to all hospitals nationwide where non-consultant hospital doctors work.’
      • ‘Last night they huddled together in sleeping bags as a bone-chilling wind and rain threatened to crack their resolve.’
      • ‘It was an overcast day, the light hidden behind grey clouds that smothered the sky and threatened to rain.’
      • ‘There were heavy downpours even before Scotland's biggest rock and pop festival kicked off and the rain threatened to upstage the performers.’
      • ‘This threatens to skew the results in two directions.’
      • ‘A dispute with Jordan which threatened to get messy had been resolved amicably, he said.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, a dispute which threatened to cause similar disruption in Tralee has been averted.’
      • ‘The transatlantic dispute over genetic engineering threatens to be much more divisive.’
      • ‘By mid-2003, lack of rain threatened to push them over that edge.’
      • ‘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 dispute threatened to delay the drafting of a constitution, just three days before a deadline for it to be approved by parliament.’
      warn of, be a warning of, give a warning of, promise, presage, augur, portend, foreshadow, prophesy, be an omen of
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    4. 1.4no 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.’
      • ‘Now a war is threatening and loads of boys are packing up to get themselves a piece of the ‘glory’.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Fearing the consequences as World War II threatened, FDR asked him to call off the march.’
      • ‘And now, just to make bad worse, another war was threatening.’
      • ‘A trade war threatened and a giant global corporation was brought to its knees.’
      • ‘Rather, they might have set up production lines that can be activated if war threatens.’
      • ‘Given his proven record in command, Franz Josef selected Benedek to command the Habsburg North Army in early 1866 when war with Prussia threatened.’
      • ‘Lots of the local farmers bred horses and sold them to the Army, especially when wars threatened.’
      • ‘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
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Old English thrēatnian ‘urge or induce, especially by using threats’, from thrēat (see threat).