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A threat is basically a declaration of intent to inflict punishment or harm or loss on another.[1] However, in many cases the threat is not believed, or may even be a joke. Like other communications a threat has a context, and the context decides its meaning.

A child who says "I'll tell my dad" may learn from the reply "I'm so scared!" that the threat is an idle threat: one that is promises harm that cannot or will not actually be inflicted.

To encourage compliance, a threat to do harm may be mixed with an offer to do good, conditional upon what the recipient does. This is sometimes called a throffer.[2] The threat part may be implied, yet effective.

Some countries, such as the United States, have a legal concept of true threat. A true threat is a threatening communication which can be prosecuted under the law.[3]

A threat can describe a situation of danger: for example "a terrorist threat". Many countries have a system where the government can adjust its security by having official threat levels.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Threat". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.'). Oxford University Press. 2005.
  2. Carter, Ian 2011. "Throffers". In Keith Dowding (ed) The Encyclopedia of Power. Sage Publications, p667. ISBN 9781412927482
  3. Phelps and Lehman, Shirelle and Jeffrey (2005). West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Detroit: Gale Virtual Reference Library. p. 27.