Meaning of “threaten” in the English Dictionary

"threaten" in British English

See all translations

threatenverb

uk /ˈθret.ən/ us /ˈθret.ən/

B2 [ T ] to tell someone that you will kill or hurt them or cause problems if they do not do what you want:

They threatened the shopkeeper with a gun.
[ + to infinitive ] They threatened to kill him unless he did as they asked.

C1 [ T ] to be likely to cause harm or damage to something or someone:

Changing patterns of agriculture are threatening the countryside.

C2 [ I ] If something bad threatens to happen, it is likely to happen:

Look at those clouds! There's a storm threatening.

More examples

  • Greenpeace works to promote awareness of the dangers that threaten our planet today.
  • Britain threatened to break off diplomatic relations.
  • A masked robber threatened the bank staff with a gun.
  • They threatened to blow up the plane if their demands were not met.
  • She's threatening to take me to court for not paying the bill on time.

(Definition of “threaten” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"threaten" in American English

See all translations

threatenverb

us /ˈθret·ən/

threaten verb (PROMISE TO HURT)

[ I/T ] to tell someone that you will hurt or harm him or her, esp. if the person does not do something in particular:

[ I ] They threatened to drop him from the team if he didn’t come to practice.
[ T ] Don’t threaten me!

threaten verb (WARN OF POSSIBILITY)

[ T ] to warn of something unpleasant or unwanted:

She threatened legal action against the newspaper.
Because of continuing drought, millions are threatened with starvation.

(Definition of “threaten” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)