Why are some acts, events, or people elevated to a status of a threat, when no hostile action or direct physical damage appears imminent? Why are some relationships of threat infused with intense emotionality and ethical language? In this paper, I argue that puzzles such as these can be understood if we develop a concept of normative threat. The role of ethical values and beliefs has not been sufficiently integrated with the threat literature. Many writers assume that ethical language tied to constructions of threat serves merely to disguise and palliate the underlying hard reality of struggles for power. This is too simplistic. I offer an approach that takes seriously the normativity of the threat experience for people as members of political bodies. I argue that perceptions of threat emerge and carry a heightened emotional and moral energy when basic features of a political body's normative order appear to be at stake and people believe action affirming their strength as a collective body is required. Normative order comprises a set of principles citizens believe to be necessary for the functioning, justifiability, and indeed ‘reality’ of their political body. A normative threat is perceived as a promise of harm to the political body through defiance of basic principles of order and right that constitute one's group. The paper describes three main types of normative threat: transgression/grievance, subversion/insecurity, abomination/indignant aversion.