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

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 But this latest deaccessioning plan has raised alarm within the museum’s extended community, leading to the resignation of at least four trustees and a letter to state officials seeking to halt the sale and open an investigation. Washington Post, "Donors rescind $50 million in gifts over Baltimore museum’s planned sale of Warhol painting," 23 Oct. 2020 Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raised the alarm about rising cases of COVID-19. Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner, "CDC sees ‘distressing trend’ in latest coronavirus surge," 21 Oct. 2020 In the 21st century, foreign policy experts have raised the alarm about a number of government shifting in the direction of fascism, or, at least, fascism-lite. Leslie Gornstein, CBS News, "What is fascism? And what does it mean in 2020 America?," 20 Oct. 2020 During questioning, Democrats repeatedly raised the alarm over how Mr. Trump’s tweets and comments had colored their perceptions of Judge Barrett. Carl Hulse, New York Times, "Barrett, Vowing Independence, Is Haunted by Trump’s Demands," 14 Oct. 2020 Former secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali raised the alarm about its manifest failings. Jimmy Quinn, National Review, "Why Dictators Will Win U.N. Human Rights Council Seats," 13 Oct. 2020 The appearance of the unauthorized collection boxes at churches, gyms, gun stores and local party headquarters in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties raised alarm over the weekend that voters could be misled. Alexei Koseff,, "California GOP doubles down on unofficial ballot boxes despite state warning they’re illegal," 12 Oct. 2020 Immigration rights advocates have raised alarm at the efforts, with Susan Reed, attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, saying DNA collection is a new attempt to cast immigrants as criminals. Detroit Free Press, "More immigration detainees face DNA collection before end of the year," 6 Oct. 2020 Others were specific to AI, like the times Sarro faced demands to know why the algorithm had raised the alarm. Tom Simonite, Wired, "AI Can Help Patients—but Only If Doctors Understand It," 2 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And their rhetoric will no doubt alarm the president and his supporters. Saphora Smith, NBC News, "Corruption, conflict and a common enemy: Can old Afghan opponents come together to make peace?," 18 Oct. 2020 The move may alarm some of Southwest Airlines' top competitors at IAH, including United Airlines, the airport's major carrier. Alison Medley, Houston Chronicle, "Southwest Airlines expands in Houston, adding flights out of IAH," 14 Oct. 2020 The apps use the Bluetooth sensors in smartphones to determine possible exposure and then send anonymous notifications, all without creating the kind of government database that would alarm privacy advocates. NBC News, "Covid apps went through the hype cycle. Now, they might be ready to work.," 6 Oct. 2020 There are weeks when the quality of the opposing pass rush will alarm the offensive tackle-shorted Cowboys. Dallas News, "Expert predictions for Cowboys-Seahawks: Will Dallas keep pace with Seattle in a scoring fest?," 25 Sep. 2020 Nationwide, the coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on African Americans, a disparity that continues to alarm health researchers, lawmakers and community leaders as the country charts a path toward reopening. Washington Post, "Near birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., a predominantly Black nursing home tries to heal after outbreak," 9 Sep. 2020 The prospect of a Republican replacing the Court’s leading liberal will alarm them as much as the prospect of Clinton choosing Scalia’s replacement. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Replacing Justice Ginsburg: Politics, Not Precedent," 19 Sep. 2020 All of this suggests that Russia and China will continue to anger and alarm their neighbors and the world at large. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Russia and China Wield Dull Wedges," 7 Sep. 2020 The overall picture of Harris’s record is one that ought to alarm anyone who believes in limited constitutional government and individual liberty. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Bulverism at The Bulwark," 18 Aug. 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

27 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for alarm


How to pronounce alarm (audio)

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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Comments on alarm

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