\ə-ˈlärm \
variants: or less commonly alarum \ə-​ˈlär-​əm also -​ˈler-​; -​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


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.


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

The complaint was elevated to HQ’s board of directors, and set off alarms, given Kroll’s past. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "HQ Trivia was a blockbuster hit — but internal turmoil and a shrinking audience have pushed it to the brink," 5 Nov. 2018 To revisit the hacking of the DNC and DCCC is to read through a litany of cultural failures: alarms not raised, phony emails clicked, warnings ignored, meetings not held. Benjamin Wofford, Vox, "The midterms are already hacked. You just don’t know it yet.," 25 Oct. 2018 For those who have trouble sleeping due to seasonal depression (or who find the sound of their alarm in the morning to be the most brutal noise since nails on a chalkboard), there’s also the wake-up light. Elizabeth Taufield, Vogue, "Seasonal Depression No More! Happy Lamps to Cure Your Blues," 8 Oct. 2018 Authorities have said Jones was shot after Wiley responded to a report of someone breaking into a vehicle, setting off its alarm. Fox News, "Prosecutor: Texas man mistaken as thief shot with hands up," 18 Sep. 2018 Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors every month. Leah Napoliello, Houston Chronicle, "Keeping your home safe this summer," 1 July 2018 So set your alarm, or feel free to sleep right through it. Brian Resnick, Vox, "The summer solstice is Thursday: 6 things to know about the longest day of the year," 19 June 2018 In late December, 2016, Egypt, on behalf of the Palestinians, began circulating among Security Council members a draft settlements resolution, causing alarm in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. Adam Entous, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump’s New World Order," 11 June 2018 The victim began yelling and managed to activate her vehicle alarm with her key fob. Chicago Tribune, Daily Southtown, "Burbank police seeking suspect in sexual assault of woman," 1 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In July, then-United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he was deeply alarmed by reports of abuses in the southwest and northwest. Fox News, "Women protest abuses in Cameroon Anglophone separatist fight," 7 Sep. 2018 And if not, how should people who are alarmed by Trump’s behavior respond? Sean Illing, Vox, "How to protest Trump," 8 Nov. 2018 Mary Anderson, executive director of the Prostate Cancer Coalition of North Carolina, and Goodall's doctor are also among those alarmed by the drop in screening. Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver, "'I got 13 good years.' With prostate cancer in his bones, here's his message for men. | Charlotte Observer," 24 May 2018 For those alarmed by news of recent threats to environmental protections, Openlands has dedicated a new advocacy page on its website to resources visitors can use to connect with Illinois lawmakers on these kinds of issues. Gwendolyn Purdom, RedEye Chicago, "Do good protecting Chicago’s natural beauty with Openlands," 28 Feb. 2018 Initially, staff members weren’t alarmed, because parents sometimes take smoke breaks or wander off momentarily, Garrett said. Alejandra Reyes-velarde,, "Police arrest woman in connection with boy abandoned at L.A.'s Union Station," 6 July 2018 Trump’s announcement appeared to catch the Pentagon and officials in Seoul off guard, and some South Koreans were alarmed. Washington Post, "Trump claim raises eyebrows: NKorea no longer a nuke threat?," 14 June 2018 New Milford police said there is no indication Katie Pladl or the Fuscos were alarmed that Steven Pladl was headed north. Nicholas Rondinone,, "Motive, Details Emerge In New Milford Murder-Suicide Incest Case," 13 Apr. 2018 No one in this state should be alarmed by the state of our education system; it's been shabby for some time. Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, "Is Michigan business leaders' small step toward education reform enough?," 25 Mar. 2018

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

Dictionary Entries near alarm



Alaric II



alarm bell

alarm bird

Statistics for alarm

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for alarm

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

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More Definitions for alarm



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 \

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with alarm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alarm

Spanish Central: Translation of alarm

Nglish: Translation of alarm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alarm for Arabic Speakers

Comments on alarm

What made you want to look up alarm? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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