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Words and actions that seek to convey anger, power, and intimidation, often in a military setting. The leaders of these countries need to quit their saber rattling before we end up at war.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A flamboyant display of military power; also, aggressive blustering. For example, There had been a great deal of saber rattling between the two nations but hostilities had never broken out . This term, originating about 1920 and alluding to an officer indicating he would draw his saber, at first referred to threatening military force but later was extended to more general use, as in Both candidates engaged in pre-debate saber rattling.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
COMMON Sabre-rattling is aggressive behaviour in which threats are made, often of military action. Note: `Sabre' is spelled `saber' in American English. He accused the country of sabre-rattling and taking the first step in the trade war. Note: You can also say that someone rattles their sabre or that people rattle sabres. Still, it is good to see both sides talking, rather than rattling sabres at each other. Note: A sabre is a heavy sword with a curved blade that was used in the past by soldiers on horseback.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012