\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \
variants: or less commonly alarum \ ə-​ˈlär-​əm also  -​ˈler-​ How to pronounce alarum (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


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

One of the former analysts behind the dismissed2009 DHS report is still sounding the alarm. Tovin Lapan, Fortune, "Domestic Terrorism Is Likely to Grow, Experts Warn," 14 Aug. 2019 Law enforcement agencies in Florida have been sounding the alarm again about bluetooth gas pump skimmers, a high-tech form of theft that’s been around for a few years. Tiffini Theisen,, "Several more credit-card number stealing skimmers found in latest sweep of gas pumps in Florida," 9 Aug. 2019 Although Japan has not intervened directly in the currency markets since 2011, its officials are watching the yen’s rise with alarm. The Economist, "The trade war escalates, and the fog of war descends," 8 Aug. 2019 That approach was met with some alarm by Second Amendment advocates. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "What Trump has said about gun control in the past," 5 Aug. 2019 In American Historical Association’s magazine, Perspectives, Allison Miller sounded the alarm on the implications of selling such an archive to the wrong buyer. Handwringing ensued. Jackie Mansky, Smithsonian, "Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch Weighs In on Legendary Photo Archive of African-American Life," 26 July 2019 The move has been met with alarm in South Korea, where semiconductor chips make up a quarter of exports. Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times, "Japan uses trade restrictions as a weapon against South Korea," 21 July 2019 Republicans have watched with some alarm as Texas has turned into a battleground. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Cornyn draws another challenger as Houston councilwoman Amanda Edwards joins Dems' Senate race," 18 July 2019 Her eyes, behind their big frames, pop with alarm or zero in. James Parker, The Atlantic, "Hannah Gadsby’s Genius Follow-Up to Nanette," 25 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

There is something positively alarming about signs that, at some level, Communist Party bosses believe the black-hands story. The Economist, "Why Chinese officials imagine America is behind unrest in Hong Kong," 17 Aug. 2019 The videos of cars passing school buses with the red lights blinking are alarming. Linda Gandee/special To,, "Avon Lake City Council looking to further penalize drivers who pass school buses," 15 Aug. 2019 Maine townsfolk play deadly pranks for a sinister shopkeeper who alarms the sheriff. Los Angeles Times, "Here are the feature and TV films airing the week of Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019," 11 Aug. 2019 Callum Wilson and Joshua King scored a combined 26 goals in the league last season, but didn't alarm the visitors' defence at all in a tame attacking display., "Bournemouth 1-1 Sheffield United: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Blades Fight Back to Earn Point," 10 Aug. 2019 This sort of technology is just the beginning, which alarms privacy advocates. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "A California police robot is flagging “blacklisted” people and cars," 8 Aug. 2019 Trump’s mindless belligerence, his perilous and ignorant world view, and, particularly, his use of inflammatory racist rhetoric are rightly seen as alarming. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, "How the Trail of American White Supremacy Led to El Paso," 6 Aug. 2019 And there is little doubt that public awareness of the problem of plastic waste has been swelling amid alarming forecasts that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050., "Holiday Inn, InterContinental Hotels owner is ditching mini shampoo bottles to cut plastic waste," 30 July 2019 In fact, there was evidence that the president's personal lawyer was alarmed at the prospect of the president meeting with Mr. McGahn to discuss Mr. McGahn's refusal to deny The New York Time's report about the president trying to fire you, correct? NBC News, "Full transcript: Mueller testimony before House Judiciary, Intelligence committees," 25 July 2019

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

17 Aug 2019

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 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

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).


to shake or wave menacingly

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