View synonyms for threat


[ thret ]


  1. a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc., in retaliation for, or conditionally upon, some action or course:

    His family convinced him to take the anonymous threats seriously and call the police.

  2. an indication or warning of probable trouble, or of being at risk for something terrible:

    The threat of a storm was in the air.

    He confessed under the threat of imprisonment.

  3. a person or thing that threatens:

    Her attorney will try to convince the judge that she is not a threat to herself or others.

verb (used with or without object)

  1. Archaic. to threaten:

    Do you dare to accuse and threat within my very home?


/ θrɛt /


  1. a declaration of the intention to inflict harm, pain, or misery
  2. an indication of imminent harm, danger, or pain
  3. a person or thing that is regarded as dangerous or likely to inflict pain or misery


  1. an archaic word for threaten

Discover More

Other Words From

  • coun·ter·threat [koun, -ter-thret], noun

Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of threat1

First recorded before 900; Middle English noun thret(e) “crowd, multitude, verbal menace,” Old English thrēat “crowd, pressure, oppression, punishment”; cognate with Old Norse thraut “hardship, great struggle”; verb from the noun; threaten ( def )

Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of threat1

Old English; related to Old Norse thraut, Middle Low German drōt

Discover More

Idioms and Phrases

see triple threat .

Discover More

Example Sentences

“We disclose attacks like these because we believe it’s important the world knows about threats to democratic processes,” Burt said.

From Fortune

We have to be as patient and as responsive as we can and acknowledge the challenges that many of these major advertisers are going through as they face fundamental threats to their business models.

From Digiday

This is a threat that many small commercial areas will likely face in the very near future.

It’s there that the NSA has unique insight into some of the biggest threats that the public and private sectors face, and uses that information to help protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure and systems from disruption.

Cygilant, a threat detection cybersecurity company, has confirmed a ransomware attack.

When communism was a threat, it was construed as a communist plot.

But this war jumps from city to city, depending the threat of the day.

But his solution to this metastasizing threat is, in some ways, counterintuitive.

“The threat streams to U.S. interests and Western interests are off the chart,” he said.

The Perfect Storm writer talks combat brotherhood and the threat posed by growing wealth inequality.

That cold, sneering voice, with its note of threat, was like a hand of ice upon his overheated brain.

Her voice was stern; it bore to the girl's ears a subtle, unworded repetition of the threat the Marquise had already voiced.

Was it the threat of Tony's near arrival that made her confession—and his dismissal—at last inevitable?

Recall his threat when coughed down on the occasion of his maiden speech in the House of Commons.

It throve because it came with the tempting bribe of Heaven in one hand, and the withering threat of Hell in the other.


Discover More

More About Threat

What does threat mean?

A threat is a statement indicating that you will cause harm to or create some other kind of negative consequences for someone, especially to pressure them to do something or not to do something.

Many threats involve a promise to physically harm someone in retaliation for what they have done or might do. A bank robber who says he’ll shoot the bank teller if they don’t hand over the money is making a threat. Telling a bully that you’ll punch them if they don’t stop bothering your little brother is a threat. A death threat involves telling someone that they will be killed. Some threats are simply meant to intimidate, and don’t involve pressuring someone to do something.

Not all threats involve violence. Telling your neighbor that you’re going to file a lawsuit if they don’t repair your fence that they broke is a threat.

The word threat can also refer to someone or something that may potentially cause harm or damage. A hurricane is a threat to people and buildings in its path. A disease is a threat to your health. A security threat is someone or something that might make a situation unsafe. A person who may be able to beat someone in a competition might be called a threat, such as in sports or politics.

Threat can also mean a warning or sign that harm or trouble is coming, as in The news was seen as a threat of problems in the very near future. 

The verb threaten means to make a threat, as in Don’t you dare threaten me! It can also mean to be a source of potential harm or damage, as in This recession threatens our livelihoods, or to indicate potential harm or trouble, as in It is threatening to storm out there. 

The adjective threatening is used to describe someone or something that causes alarm, intimidates, or is intended to intimidate, as in You look very threatening in that costume. 

Example: The rowdy students immediately started to behave in response to the teacher’s threat of calling their parents.

Where does threat come from?

The first records of the word threat come from before 900. It ultimately comes from the Old English thréat, meaning “pressure” or “punishment.”

Most threats are meant to pressure someone to do something (or not do something) by indicating what the punishment will be if they don’t comply. For example, telling your brother that you will tell your parents that he was out past curfew unless he gives you something is a threat (it’s also blackmail). It doesn’t matter if you intend to tell your parents or not—the statement is still a threat.

In all of its uses, a threat involves the possibility of something bad happening, but the word does not refer to the actual negative consequences that are being threatened.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to threat?

What are some synonyms for threat?

What are some words that share a root or word element with threat

What are some words that often get used in discussing threat?

How is threat used in real life?

Threat is always used in negative contexts, especially ones that involve some kind of harm or violence.



Try using threat!

Is threat used correctly in the following sentence?

After I accidentally knocked over their snowman, the kids started shouting angry threats at me.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.