\ 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

That fact alone would probably set off an alarm in the United States. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "Chinese ties don’t faze European funders," 10 Sep. 2019 The notice specifically called for required permits, inspections and the installation of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the building used for the shelter. Gary Warth, San Diego Union-Tribune, "City shutdown means uncertain future for youth shelter, church at Irenic," 9 Sep. 2019 On June 18, 2018, several doctors officially raised the alarm, according to a timeline issued on Thursday by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Susan Keating,, "2 Veterans Were Murdered at a West Virginia VA Hospital, and Investigators Have Person of Interest," 30 Aug. 2019 Deputies responding to a 2:20 p.m. burglar alarm call Monday went to the residence and found a gate to the backyard open. La Cañada Valley Sun, "Crime Report: Woman hears noise at her bedroom slider; it’s 2 men trying to break in," 28 Aug. 2019 Environmentalists have been raising the alarm about deforestation since the country’s current president Jair Bolsonaro was elected in 2018. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "The Amazon is burning at record rates—and deforestation is to blame," 21 Aug. 2019 But the Viacom/CBS union has raised alarms among some government watchdogs, worried about the growing lack of competition in a market of programming titans. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Why Viacom and CBS Had to Merge to Survive," 19 Aug. 2019 After Thiel raised the alarm about Google’s activities earlier this month, the Trump administration looked into it. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "Why an AI arms race with China would be bad for humanity," 10 Aug. 2019 Myles, who worked on the report with Carlisle, had raised the alarm last year after spotting suspicious similarities in the raw data for control and patient groups in five of Schietroma’s papers. David Adam, Scientific American, "How a Data Detective Exposed Suspicious Medical Trials," 6 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

While alarming, one bad nesting year isn’t necessarily bad news, Jahncke said. Will Houston, The Mercury News, "Poor Farallon Islands bird breeding season prompts alarm," 2 Sep. 2019 The Journal’s story appeared before the President issued his latest threat to Mexico, which further alarmed corporate America. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Trump’s Top Economist Makes a Timely Exit," 4 June 2019 While the fight alarmed some aides who overheard it, according to the people familiar with the matter, neither official is expected to resign over it. Rebecca Ballhaus, WSJ, "White House Chief Kelly, National Security Adviser Bolton Have Expletive-Laden Fight," 18 Oct. 2018 And according to another source, while alarming, West’s behavior doesn’t rise to the level of being dangerous. Elizabeth Leonard,, "Kanye West's Behavior Can Be 'Draining' on Kim Kardashian, Source Says," 25 Apr. 2018 Cunningham, who went home sick from work on Feb. 12, had also apparently left behind his dog, wallet, car and phone in his home, which alarmed his parents, who had traveled to Atlanta from Maryland to check on him, police said. Melissa Chan, Time, "Missing CDC Employee Timothy Cunningham Found Dead Two Months After He Vanished," 5 Apr. 2018 Just as important, the tests were remarkably good at avoiding false-positive signals, which would needlessly alarm women and lead to riskier and more-invasive tests to confirm a diagnosis. Melissa Healy,, "Modified Pap tests can show early warning signs of other gynecological cancers," 22 Mar. 2018 Legislation Sought The attacks have alarmed a number of Senate Democrats, some of whom are pressing their colleagues not just for statements but also to back legislation. Laura Litvan,, "McConnell Says Trump Should Allow Mueller to Finish Russia Probe," 20 Mar. 2018 The plan alarmed local politicians, and created a buzz in the Decatur region. al, "Does the rest of Alabama care about the toll concerns in Mobile and Baldwin counties?," 14 Aug. 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

14 Sep 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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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