[dih-tur-uh ns, -tuhr-, -ter-]


the act of deterring, especially deterring a nuclear attack by the capacity or threat of retaliating.

Origin of deterrence

First recorded in 1860–65; deterr(ent) + -ence Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for deterrence

Contemporary Examples of deterrence

Historical Examples of deterrence

  • When deterrence or diplomacy failed as in Kuwait, then the use of force was inevitable.

    Shock and Awe

    Harlan K. Ullman

  • Let us assume the legitimate end of all punishment to be deterrence.

  • Nature has provided as far as possible for deterrence from over-interest.


    James J. Walsh

  • What the deterrence in a comparatively short prison term that leaves the prisoner with a firm grip on his bundle of loot?

    Criminal Types

    V. M. Masten

  • To split hairs of deterrence over confirmed social hyenas, is to furnish them with the last formula from which to tear things.

    Criminal Types

    V. M. Masten

Word Origin and History for deterrence

1861; see deterrent + -ence.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for deterrence


A military capability sufficiently strong to discourage any would-be aggressor from starting a war because of the fear of retaliation. (See balance of terror.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.