\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

In a global economy increasingly plagued by worries — from an unfolding trade war to higher oil prices — Turkey may present the most immediate cause for alarm. New York Times, "Turkey’s Economy Is So Hot That It May Face a Meltdown," 10 July 2018 Today, liberals find cause for alarm in Wilkie's record of defending his past bosses. Paul Sonne And Lisa Rein, miamiherald, "Trump's VA pick, a longtime aide to polarizing politicians, has defended extreme views," 26 June 2018 Adding to the sense of alarm were another two nonfatal Navy warship crashes in the Western Pacific that occurred earlier in the year. Jasmine Khayami And Elizabeth Strassner, USA TODAY, "Collisions reveal a Navy tragically undone by its can-do spirit," 25 June 2018 That’s all cause for alarm: Harper looks as lost as can be and is swinging through absolutely everything. Staff,, "Nine Innings: Jason Heyward's Turning Point, Expansion Possibilities and Bryce Harper's Struggles," 18 June 2018 In retrospect my ignorance should have been a cause for alarm. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "Inside a Chemist’s Quest to Hack Evolution and Cure Genetic Disease," 12 June 2018 Meteorologists will continue to share images of weather models, but said these are not cause for alarm. Zach Despart, Houston Chronicle, "NWS: It's way too soon to give odds of tropical storm reaching Texas next weekend," 10 June 2018 In fact, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, has been raising the alarm about her own race. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Fox News Power Rankings: Hello, Wisconsin," 12 July 2018 The Turpin children were discovered, filthy and starving, after one girl, aged 17, climbed out of a window and raised the alarm. Dipesh Navsaria, Houston Chronicle, "What parents should know to prevent — and deal with — bug bites," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Blackmon, who is a senior fellow in presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, said maintaining the law should alarm Alabamians weary of their reputation outside of state lines. John Sharp,, "Alabama lawmakers won't tackle statewide solutions to sheriff food funds," 21 Mar. 2018 If #MeToo alarms you or rubs you the wrong way, Twitter is convenient. Sarah Jones, New Republic, "There’s No Such Thing as Twitter Feminism," 7 Feb. 2018 Despite leading the league in swinging strike rate (18.3%), posting a putrid 69.8% contact rate and chasing an alarming 47.5% pitches outside the strike zone, the upstart infielder has emerged as the Cubs’ most important hitter after Kris Bryant. Kenny Ducey,, "Midseason Report Card: The NL Central Is Baseball's Most Exciting Division," 29 June 2018 Nationally, the number of breweries and taprooms are still growing, but there were an alarming 165 brewery closures in 2017, including two in Central Florida with Hops Boss near Winter Park and Reprise in Celebration. Kyle Arnold,, "7 ways Orlando's craft beer brewing scene is changing in 2018," 26 June 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

26 Oct 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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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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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