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variants or less commonly alarum
ə-ˈlär-əm How to pronounce alarm (audio)
-ˈler- How to pronounce alarm (audio)
usually alarum, archaic : a call to arms
… the angry trumpet sounds alarumWilliam Shakespeare
: 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
: sudden sharp apprehension and fear resulting from the perception of imminent danger
: a warning notice


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

transitive verb

: to strike with fear
: to give warning to
: 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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Authorities are working to determine whether a two-alarm fire at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel is linked to the arrest of Guo, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 15 Mar. 2023 The three-alarm fire at the Valley River Inn on Feb. 28 ignited on the second floor late that morning before spreading to the third floor, reported the Register-Guard, part of the USA TODAY Network. Ashley R. Williams, USA TODAY, 15 Mar. 2023 That nod came as Yao led an effort to salvage the museum’s artifacts following a five-alarm fire in its research space earlier that year. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, 13 Mar. 2023 Firefighters battled a five-alarm fire in a Townsend home Sunday morning, according to authorities. Haley Hersey,, 12 Mar. 2023 At least seven people have been injured in a five-alarm fire in the Bronx which required the attention of 200 firefighters. Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN, 9 Mar. 2023 The spokesperson said the issue was one of national concern, citing an e-bike battery that reportedly sparked a five-alarm fire in New York City last weekend. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Mar. 2023 New York City firefighters on Sunday battled a five-alarm fire that officials believe was started by the battery of an e-bike. Bradford Betz, Fox News, 6 Mar. 2023 Yesterday, an e-bike battery started a five-alarm fire that destroyed a Bronx supermarket located on Grand Concourse and 181st Street. Andrew Blankstein, NBC News, 6 Mar. 2023
But reports of corruption are likely to alarm many in Western capitals, which have sent huge sums of money to Ukraine to balance the economic catastrophe of the war. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2023 The 23-year-old star landing at No. 9 should not alarm fans. Dallas News, 21 Feb. 2023 Because his father had contracted the virus shortly before his own diagnosis, William didn't want to alarm the public any further with the news of him also falling ill. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 13 Feb. 2023 The railroad tycoons’ expanding reach began to alarm some politicians, including in California. Ryan Fonsecastaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2023 The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has faced heavy shelling, continues to alarm international leaders. Rachel Pannett, Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2022 For reasons too boringly intricate to explain, he is summoned to our modern world to fight once again, but his methods of dealing justice are Old Testament enough to alarm a bunch of other caped crusaders, who swoop in to try to civilize him. David Sims, The Atlantic, 19 Oct. 2022 Yet the plans did not appear to overly alarm the authorities. Simon Romero, New York Times, 13 Jan. 2023 The idea of returning to the Quantum Realm and dealing with the people who live on the subatomic plane of existence immediately seems to alarm Janet in the trailer. Charles Pulliam-moore, The Verge, 10 Jan. 2023 See More

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.

Word History



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

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

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