threaten Definition

  • 1to tell someone that you will harm or punish them if they do not do what you want
  • 2to be likely to harm or damage something or someone

Using threaten: Examples

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with how "threaten" can be used in various situations through the following examples!

  • Example

    He threatened to fire her if she didn't finish the project on time.

  • Example

    The storm threatens to damage the crops.

  • Example

    The new policy threatens to undermine the company's reputation.

threaten Synonyms and Antonyms

Synonyms for threaten

Antonyms for threaten

Phrases with threaten

  • empty threat

    a threat that is not carried out


    She made an empty threat to call the police.

  • to be a potential danger or risk


    The new virus poses a serious threat to public health.

  • to do what one has promised to do in a threatening manner


    The kidnappers carried out their threat to harm the hostages.

Origins of threaten

from Old English 'þreatian', meaning 'to press, urge'


Summary: threaten in Brief

The verb 'threaten' [ˈθret(ə)n] means to warn someone of harm or punishment if they don't comply with one's demands. It can also mean to be likely to cause harm or damage. Examples include 'He threatened to fire her if she didn't finish the project on time.' and 'The storm threatens to damage the crops.' 'Threaten' is often used with phrases like 'empty threat' and 'pose a threat,' and it has formal synonyms like 'intimidate' and 'menace.'

How do native speakers use this expression?