alarm

1 of 2

noun

variants or less commonly alarum
ə-ˈlär-əm How to pronounce alarm (audio)
also
-ˈler- How to pronounce alarm (audio)
-ˈla-rəm
1
usually alarum archaic : a call to arms
… the angry trumpet sounds alarumWilliam 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

alarm

2 of 2

verb

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

transitive verb

1
: to strike with fear
2
3
: to give warning to
4
: to equip with an alarm

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.”

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Digital equity organizations soon raised alarm over the plan that delayed investments in low-income communities such as portions of South Los Angeles, East Oakland, the Central and Coachella Valleys, and even in my own county of Monterey. Luis A. Alejo, The Mercury News, 13 June 2024 Saucedo agreed, saying this phenomenon could be replicated in other countries, raising the alarm in other Latin American governments. Karol Suárez, The Courier-Journal, 12 June 2024
Verb
The move has alarmed environmental groups, which have long campaigned to buy and preserve Bird Key and two small adjacent islands that provide a haven for the creatures that inspired its name — herons, pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds and other coastal species. Alex Harris, Miami Herald, 24 May 2024 This final stage of the offseason program remains voluntary, so fans should not be alarmed if key veterans are still working out on their own elsewhere, or recovering from injuries endured in last season’s run to the Super Bowl. Cam Inman, The Mercury News, 20 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for alarm 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alarm.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near alarm

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alarm. Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

alarm

1 of 2 noun
1
: a warning of danger
2
: a device that warns or signals (as by a bell, buzzer, or whistle)
sound the alarm
set the alarm for six o'clock
3
: the fear caused by a sudden sense of danger

alarm

2 of 2 verb
1
: to warn of danger
2
: to cause to feel a sense of danger : frighten
alarmed by the noise
alarmingly adverb
Etymology

Noun

Middle English alarme "a call to arms," from early French alarme (same meaning), derived from early Italian all'arme, literally "to arms," from all' "to the" and arme "weapon," from Latin arma "weapon" — related to arm entry 3

Word Origin
Today we usually think of an alarm as a loud noise that awakens us or warns us of fire or some other danger. Its first use, however, was as a call to arms to soldiers in Italy. The Italian phrase all'arme! means literally "to arms" or "to your weapons." It was still used this way when borrowed into other languages, but gradually this call came to be shortened to alarme in early French and Middle English. The final -e was later dropped in English. The word also came to be used as the name for the cry, as for example to "give the alarm." Then it came to be used for any warning. A bell or gun used to sound a warning was called an alarm bell or an alarm gun. It wasn't long before people started thinking of alarm as the signal device itself. Then they dropped the second part of the phrase. 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."

More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

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