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From Middle English þreaten or þreten, from Old English þrēatian.


  • enPR: thrĕt′n̩, IPA(key): /ˈθɹɛt.n̩/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: threat‧en


threaten (third-person singular simple present threatens, present participle threatening, simple past and past participle threatened)

  1. To make a threat against someone; to use threats.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Hocussing of Cigarette[1]:
      No one, however, would have anything to do with him, as Mr. Keeson's orders in those respects were very strict ; he had often threatened any one of his employés with instant dismissal if he found him in company with one of these touts.
    He threatened me with a knife.
  2. To menace, or be dangerous.
    The rocks threatened the ship's survival.
  3. To portend, or give a warning of.
    The black clouds threatened heavy rain.
  4. (figuratively) To be close to equaling or surpassing (a record, etc.)
    • 2000, Lew Freedman, Diamonds in the Rough: Baseball Stories from Alaska, →ISBN, page 69
      The player quickly surmised that things weren't kosher and the suddenly wiser ballplayer threatened the world record for the fifty-yard dash as he sought safety. As Reynolds dived into the van, Dietz and the other players rolled with laughter.

Usage notes[edit]


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