verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
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Origin of threaten
OTHER WORDS FROM threatenthreat·en·er, nounoutthreaten, verb (used with object)pre·threat·en, verb (used with object)re·threat·en, verb
Words nearby threaten
What does threaten mean?
To threaten someone is to indicate that you will cause harm to or create some other kind of negative consequences for them, especially to pressure them to do something or not to do something.
This kind of statement is called a threat. Threatening someone often involves a promise to physically harm them in retaliation for what they have done or might do. A bank robber might threaten a bank teller by telling them he’ll shoot them if they don’t hand over the money. Some threats are simply meant to intimidate, and don’t involve pressuring someone to do something. A bully might threaten to punch you for no good reason.
Not all threats involve violence. You can threaten someone with a lawsuit.
The word threat can also refer to someone or something that may potentially cause harm or damage, and threaten can mean to be a source of potential harm or damage. A disease threatens your health. A security threat is someone or something that threatens to make a situation unsafe.
Threat can also mean a warning or sign that harm or trouble is coming, and threaten can mean 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.
The adjective threatened means in danger, as in I felt threatened or We need to protect threatened species.
Example: The rowdy students immediately started to behave after the teacher threatened to call their parents.
Where does threaten come from?
The first records of the word threaten come from before 1000. It ultimately comes from the Old English thréat, meaning “pressure” or “punishment.” The suffix -en is used to form verbs (as in strengthen).
Threatening someone is usually meant to pressure them to do something (or not do something) by indicating what the punishment will be if they don’t comply. For example, you might threaten your brother that you will tell your parents that he was out past curfew unless he gives you something (this is also blackmail). It doesn’t matter if you intend to tell your parents or not—the statement is still a threat.
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What are some other forms related to threaten?
- threatening (continuous tense verb, adjective)
- threatened (past tense verb, adjective)
- threat (verb)
What are some synonyms for threaten?
What are some words that share a root or word element with threaten?
What are some words that often get used in discussing threaten?
How is threaten used in real life?
Threaten is always used in negative contexts, especially ones that involve some kind of harm or violence.
NYC man arrested for threatening to kill Sen. Schumer & protesters, prosecutors say.
Brian Maiorana, 54, took to social media to threaten law enforcement & elected officials from Sept. up until a few days after the presidential election, prosecutors said.https://t.co/ZnqYLkPLUj
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) November 11, 2020
NBC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Senator says Ukranian oligarch and Paul Manafort associate Dmytro Firtash has made "hundreds of millions of dollars" in "illicit profits" awaiting extradition to the U.S.
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) June 4, 2019
SCOOP: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to block the EU's €1.8 trillion budget — if payouts are to linked rule-of-law clauses.https://t.co/dLPFeBG057
— POLITICOEurope (@POLITICOEurope) November 10, 2020
Try using threaten!
Is threaten used correctly in the following sentence?
After I accidentally knocked over their snowman, the kids threatened to throw snowballs at me.
Example sentences from the Web for threaten
A deadly pig disease has just entered Germany for the first time, threatening to hammer exports from Europe’s biggest hog-producing nation.Europe is on high alert after a deadly swine virus emerges in Germany|Bernhard Warner|September 10, 2020|Fortune
The scuttlebutt was that about half a million dollars of advertising was threatening to walk unless something was done.
McDade subsequently threatened his attackers in a Facebook Live video he made.
These often can be removed before they progress to life-threatening stages.
One could ask why trying to persuade someone to wear a mask would threaten their dignity.
Anyone willing to threaten war over a joke is clearly not playing with a full deck.The Sony Hack and America’s Craven Capitulation To Terror|David Keyes|December 19, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Seevakumaran uploaded six videos to YouTube on March 17, just hours before he would threaten his roommate and commit suicide.
Second, they threaten one of the most precious resources in our state: public education that is open to all children.Hunger Games Comes to New York State’s Public Schools|Zephyr Teachout|November 26, 2014|DAILY BEAST
“I meet with the editors, I write them letters, I threaten them,” he said.Would Pro-Israel Billionaires Adelson and Saban Really Buy the NYT?|Eli Lake|November 9, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Nothing may actually threaten America more than our own fears.Ebola, ISIS, the Border: So Much to Fear, So Little Time!|Gene Robinson|November 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST
There are no chains to my prison, no steel cuffs to gall the limbs, no guards to threaten and cow me.The Soldier of the Valley|Nelson Lloyd
I suppose you think it's brave to come back from the front and threaten a defenceless man with a revolver?First Plays|A. A. Milne
To raise a club over the head of another and threaten to strike if he speaks, would be an assault.Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman|Albert Sidney Bolles
I have everywhere remarked that the Indians jangle and threaten a great deal, but that they never go beyond that.A Woman's Journey Round the World|Ida Pfeiffer
The British under Burgoyne had advanced their works so far as to threaten a complete inclosure of the continental army.The Every Day Book of History and Chronology|Joel Munsell