A threat is basically a declaration of intent to inflict punishment or harm or loss on another. 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 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. The threat part may be implied, yet effective.
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.
- "Threat". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.'). Oxford University Press. 2005.
- Carter, Ian 2011. "Throffers". In Keith Dowding (ed) The Encyclopedia of Power. Sage Publications, p667. ISBN 9781412927482
- Phelps and Lehman, Shirelle and Jeffrey (2005). West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Detroit: Gale Virtual Reference Library. p. 27.