\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \
variants: or less commonly alarum \ ə-​ˈlär-​əm How to pronounce alarm (audio) also  -​ˈler-​ How to pronounce alarm (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 Critical race theory is not being taught in Minnesota's K-12 classrooms, but groups have raised alarm about the once-a-decade process of revising state social studies standards. Briana Bierschbach, Star Tribune, 17 July 2021 Some patient advocates have raised the alarm about discharges, and the report underscored those concerns., 16 July 2021 Milley was concerned that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon and raised alarm in Washington at the time, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, were sinister omens. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 15 July 2021 People of color in higher education have raised the alarm for years that although student bodies are becoming more diverse, faculty are still overwhelmingly white. N'dea Yancey-bragg, USA TODAY, 9 July 2021 As pandemic restrictions are lifted, business headlines have raised an alarm: Employers can't find enough employees. Washington Post, 29 June 2021 The agency cited the company for the spill at the end of April, after community members raised the alarm about the spill when it was finally reported in July 2020. Laura Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 25 June 2021 As Russell zoomed over the lush, green southern Puget Sound region, his flight raised alarm. Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, 24 June 2021 Bad passenger behavior is nothing new; the International Air Transport Association raised an alarm on the issue of unruly passengers a few years ago. Hannah Sampson, Anchorage Daily News, 12 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The details that are in the five-page outline should alarm Congress. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 8 July 2021 These market gyrations could become more routine, which may alarm investors who have gotten used to more calm on Wall Street. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, 18 June 2021 Even so, the conservative backlash has led to alarm even among some of the organization’s closest allies. Washington Post, 17 May 2021 The Capito proposal would all but eliminate clean energy and climate spending from the infrastructure package, and the White House's eagerness to cut a deal has started to alarm some environmentalists. Adam Aton, Scientific American, 13 May 2021 Fortunately, The Atlantic staff writer Katherine Wu explains to James Hamblin and Maeve Higgins why these shouldn’t alarm us just yet. The Atlantic, 3 June 2021 The lie is gaining enough traction to alarm voting officials, starting with California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 May 2021 Many children have devoted even more time to video games during the last year, and while that may alarm parents, experts say there’s no reason for concern. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 7 May 2021 On Monday, she was hit with new criminal charges — making a statement that could alarm the public and inducing someone to act against the state — that could put her in prison for years. New York Times, 1 Mar. 2021

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

24 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

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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 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

Nglish: Translation of alarm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alarm for Arabic Speakers


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