\ 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 The morning the Timberwolves season tipped off, President Gersson Rosas tried to sound the alarm that there might be nights like Thursday's 135-117 loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore. Chris Hine, Star Tribune, "Timberwolves again fall flat, losing 135-117 at Portland," 8 Jan. 2021 As Alabama works toward solutions for its Black Belt sewage issues, a Lowndes County woman who helped sound the alarm about conditions there received a major honor in 2020. Dennis Pillion |, al, "Biggest environmental stories of 2020 in Alabama," 31 Dec. 2020 The reversals reflect the limitations of Covid-19 tests on a virus that can take days to incubate, and, in at least one case, failures by cruise management to properly quarantine crew or sound the alarm when employees became sick. Rebecca Smith, WSJ, "Cruise Ships Can’t Sail Away From Covid," 31 Dec. 2020 Gardner called 911 and pulled his fire alarm before confronting the protesters and getting into a scuffle with Scurlock and ultimately shooting him. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Nebraska bar owner charged with shooting black protester dies by apparent suicide," 21 Sep. 2020 On March 10, Cardi B confronted her growing alarm about the then-new novel coronavirus by posting a brief but expletive-filled video on Instagram — and reflected so many of our own anxieties in the process. Los Angeles Times, "Here are the top Latino media moments of 2020 — and hints of what to expect in 2021," 31 Dec. 2020 International monitors cite those changes as a main reason for their alarm about the country’s economic plunge. New York Times, "Battered Turkish Economy Puts a Powerful Erdogan to the Test," 27 Dec. 2020 Brownlow and Casper seemed to take my alarm for excitement and began drawing up a list of writers to invite for these public conversations. Washington Post, "I didn’t think I understood modern poetry. The less I tried to get it, the more I came to love it.," 4 Dec. 2020 Spend the next four hours burping yourself to sleep, just in time for your alarm to go off. Danielle Kraese, The New Yorker, "Sleep-Training Methods for Adults," 20 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Is that something that kind of reverts to mean in the Biden era or is there a start of a trend there that continues in some way and that could alarm Democrats. NBC News, "Meet the Press - December 6, 2020," 6 Dec. 2020 But critics of techno-enhancement, who superficially might seem more credible, indulge in hype too, to alarm us. John Horgan, Scientific American, "Premature Freak-Outs about Techno-Enhancement," 23 Jan. 2021 Acquiring an operational system would alarm its rivals and neighbors because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect in advance. Time, "North Korea Holds a Huge Military Parade as Kim Vows to Expand His Nuclear Program," 15 Jan. 2021 Short-term side effects, though widely expected among the medical community, could alarm some people. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "Who should get a vaccine first — the pensioner or the politician?," 10 Dec. 2020 Andrew Harris, a professor in the School of Criminology & Justice Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said the increase in inmate deaths at the Madison County Jail should alarm members of the community. Connor Sheets |, al, "Alabama’s deadliest jail sees nine inmate deaths since 2019," 9 Dec. 2020 But a recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) puts government mismanagement on a different plane and should alarm all Americans. Hayden Dublois, National Review, "Improper Medicaid Payments Have Soared since Obamacare," 9 Dec. 2020 Experience is a powerful teacher—countries that previously battled SARS and MERS have had comparatively better responses to the pandemic—and yet warning shots can only alarm us for so long. Corinne Purtill, The New Yorker, "How Close Is Humanity to the Edge?," 21 Nov. 2020 Some argue that the election, no matter how contentious, will still take a back seat to the pandemic, as the trajectory of Covid-19 continues to alarm public health experts and raise the specter of an overwhelmed health care system. NBC News, "A succession crisis or a 'blue wave?' Wall Street faces the unknown," 2 Nov. 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

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alarm

Nglish: Translation of alarm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alarm for Arabic Speakers

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