\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \
variants: or less commonly alarum \ ə-​ˈlär-​əm How to pronounce alarum (audio) also  -​ˈler-​ How to pronounce alarum (audio) ; -​ˈla-​rəm \

Definition of alarm

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 usually alarum, archaic : a call to arms … the angry trumpet sounds alarum— William Shakespeare
2 : a signal (such as a loud noise or flashing light) that warns or alerts also : a device that signals set the alarm to wake me at seven
3 : sudden sharp apprehension and fear resulting from the perception of imminent danger
4 : a warning notice


variants: or less commonly alarum
alarmed also alarumed; alarming also alaruming; alarms also alarums

Definition of alarm (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to strike with fear
3 : to give warning to
4 : to equip with an alarm

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Choose the Right Synonym for alarm


fear, dread, fright, alarm, panic, terror, trepidation mean painful agitation in the presence or anticipation of danger. fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage. fear of the unknown dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety. faced the meeting with dread fright implies the shock of sudden, startling fear. fright at being awakened suddenly alarm suggests a sudden and intense awareness of immediate danger. view the situation with alarm panic implies unreasoning and overmastering fear causing hysterical activity. the news caused widespread panic terror implies the most extreme degree of fear. immobilized with terror trepidation adds to dread the implications of timidity, trembling, and hesitation. raised the subject with trepidation

Did You Know?

Today we usually think of an alarm as a loud noise that awakens us or warns us of danger. Its first use, however, was in Italy as a call to arms to soldiers. The Italian phrase all’arme! means literally “to arms” or “to your weapons.” The call was borrowed into other languages and came to be shortened to alarme in early French and Middle English. The word also came to be used as the name for the cry, then for any warning, and then to any device used to sound a warning, such as a bell or a gun. Since an alarm can cause fright or worry, such feelings also came to be known as alarm. By the 17th century, the word was used as a verb, meaning “to warn of danger” and then “to frighten.”

Examples of alarm in a Sentence

Noun The alarm went off when he opened the door. The whole town heard the alarm. She set the alarm for six o'clock. The alarm went off at six o'clock. The rumors caused widespread alarm and concern. His parents have expressed alarm about his safety. The new developments are being viewed with alarm. She looked around in alarm when she heard the noise. The dog's barking gave the alarm and the intruders were caught. A passerby saw the intruders and raised the alarm. Verb I didn't mean to alarm you. The rapid spread of the disease has alarmed many people.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Emails, memos, and a human resources grievance show how the Pac-12 promised special access for the LA Times reporter and how the partnership set off alarm bells inside the news organization. John Canzano, oregonlive, "Canzano: Amid crisis, Pac-12 signed agreement to fund news coverage from Los Angeles Times," 30 July 2020 In addition to economic impacts from the pandemic, the devastating four-alarm fire at Pier 45 in May tore through a storage facility filled with the fishing and crabbing gear of more than 30 tenants. Justin Phillips,, "Bay Area salmon season is in full swing for home cooks but uncertain for fishers," 13 July 2020 But the developments have some of the president’s top supporters ringing alarm bells. Fox News, "Trump campaign aims to expand the 2020 electoral map amid challenging landscape," 8 July 2020 From the moment SpaceX launched its first batch of 60 Starlink satellites into Earth's orbit last year, alarm bells went off for people who spend time studying the sky. Jackie Wattles, CNN, "How Elon Musk's Starlink satellites may have stifled the best chance to find Planet 9," 2 July 2020 Someone inside the home called 911 to report the two-alarm fire, which was broadcast on local news stations. Kevin Krause, Dallas News, "Feds: Fort Worth mansion burned down when doctor tried to destroy evidence of medical fraud," 24 June 2020 Blaney and Basola had just finished looking into what turned out to be a false-alarm Finn sighting when Ghazi texted her about the good news from his shaman. Ellen Mccarthy, Washington Post, "Her dog went missing in the middle of the pandemic — and a neighborhood of strangers found a mission," 23 June 2020 They get trashed on White Russians during a false-alarm hurricane, and get even more trashed at Epcot with an aspiring Jesus who unofficially performs miracles at the Holy Land Experience theme park. Lauren Groff, The Atlantic, "The Dark Soul of the Sunshine State," 21 June 2020 So when one of his longtime co-workers came in to check on him during the first full day of his COVID-19 hospitalization, and Chang didn’t recognize the nurse, alarm bells went off. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘It’s almost like there’s this monster inside of you’," 19 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The number of sick and dying may mean nothing to Nasdaq bulls, but the escalating cases are enough to alarm Cleveland Fed president Loretta Mester. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "The bull run in tech and Chinese equities rolls on even as coronavirus cases spike," 9 July 2020 Liability, screening of kids for illness, creating safe games for rowdy kids under a broiling sun — all these considerations and more began to alarm Sachs-Amrami as the college student dove deeper into the idea of running his own small camp. Constance Sommer, Washington Post, "Summer ‘camp’ with the neighborhood teens. Is it worth the risk?," 2 July 2020 The footage showed a scene of screaming fans with no face coverings packed against railings, an environment that would likely alarm public health officials. cleveland, "As COVID-19 surges, country star Chase Rice plays packed concert for a thousand mask-free fans," 29 June 2020 Protesters trying to topple statues and take over city centers would alarm the white suburban female voters that proved crucial in 2016, for example. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "Trump campaign dismisses criticism that he is losing touch with voters," 24 June 2020 But Hassett’s upcoming departure -- first -- could alarm critics who worry that the White House lacks respected economic officials to guide the nation through the economic calamity caused by the virus. Jeff Stein, Washington Post, "Kevin Hassett, senior Trump economic adviser, to leave White House," 22 June 2020 It’s not just to document it, not just to alarm or to arm some people with a false sense of security. Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, "Why Racism, Not Race, Is a Risk Factor for Dying of COVID-19," 12 June 2020 Jeri Kubicki, who lives in Cincinnati, is also alarmed by recent research delays. Laurie Mcginley, Anchorage Daily News, "Medical research, clinical trials for most diseases take a hit amid pandemic panic," 5 June 2020 Beijing city officials were alarmed enough to consider locking down the capital, according to a medical expert with direct knowledge of the matter. Fox News, "China delayed releasing coronavirus info, frustrating WHO despite public praise," 3 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alarm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of alarm


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for alarm


Middle English alarme, alarom, from Middle French alarme, from Old Italian all'arme, literally, to the arms

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Learn More about alarm

Time Traveler for alarm

Time Traveler

The first known use of alarm was in the 15th century

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Statistics for alarm

Last Updated

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for alarm


How to pronounce alarm (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of alarm

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a device that makes a loud sound as a warning or signal
: a feeling of fear caused by a sudden sense of danger
: a warning of danger



English Language Learners Definition of alarm (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause (someone) to feel a sense of danger : to worry or frighten (someone)


\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \

Kids Definition of alarm

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a warning of danger The dog's barking gave the alarm.
2 : a device (as a bell) that warns or signals people a car alarm
3 : alarm clock Set the alarm for six o'clock.
4 : the feeling of fear caused by a sudden sense of danger She was filled with alarm on hearing the crash downstairs.


alarmed; alarming

Kids Definition of alarm (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause to feel a sense of danger : worry or frighten Their strange behavior alarmed us.

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More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alarm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with alarm

Spanish Central: Translation of alarm

Nglish: Translation of alarm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alarm for Arabic Speakers

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