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 notesEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.