\ ə-ˈlärm How to pronounce alarm (audio) \
variants: or less commonly alarum \ ə-​ˈlär-​əm How to pronounce alarm (audio) also  -​ˈler-​ How to pronounce alarm (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 My sister works for an alarm system company, and shipping delays for equipment and parts are reaching a month. Adam A. Millsap, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 The shelter’s fire alarm system was inoperable; the heat cut off in the winter; and the family daily battled mice and roaches. New York Times, 30 Sep. 2021 Lastly, Renzo, my neighbor, was on the phone with his buddy to inquire about installing motion-detection flood lights and an alarm system. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, 27 Sep. 2021 Investigators reported that an alarm system alerted ride workers of an issue and prevented the operators from dispatching the ride. Nicholas Rice,, 25 Sep. 2021 Anxiety is an alarm system that alerts us to possible threats. Jessica Dulong, CNN, 31 Aug. 2021 Police were skeptical of Dabate’s claim and launched a comprehensive investigation that included obtaining data from Connie Dabate’s Fitbit, posts to social media and data from their home’s alarm system. Zach Murdock,, 24 Aug. 2021 An alarm system beeps every time his levels dip below 80 percent. Washington Post, 6 Aug. 2021 The insurance crime bureau also suggests engraving your VIN on your car’s catalytic converter, and installing an alarm system. Justin Ray, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The arc of Cruto's career at Zain—from excitement to alarm in just weeks—was common among the recent college graduates Anwar liked to hire. Brendan I. Koerner, Wired, 12 Oct. 2021 Lobbyists warned the plan would alarm family farmers, even though its provisions shielded them. John Harwood, CNN, 19 Sep. 2021 In light of the fact that his father Prince Charles 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. Stephanie Petit,, 14 Sep. 2021 These encounters almost never result in recreational divers getting bitten, but the apparent aggression from animals packing deadly neurotoxic venom is enough to alarm most who experience it firsthand. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Aug. 2021 The median home price was down in July to $730,500, but not enough to alarm housing industry watchers. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Aug. 2021 While the health concerns around PFAS are not new, greater detection of the chemicals in water systems nationwide in recent years has begun to alarm state and local leaders and prompted Congress to consider urgent action. Devin Dwyer, ABC News, 10 Aug. 2021 Such statements, and the widespread silence by Republicans in the face of vaccine skepticism, are beginning to alarm some strategists and party leaders. New York Times, 20 July 2021 Becoming part tortoise wouldn’t necessarily alarm Brian Hanley. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021

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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Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best alarm clocks of 2021.

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Time Traveler for alarm

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near alarm

Alaric II



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Statistics for alarm

Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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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



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.

More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

Nglish: Translation of alarm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alarm for Arabic Speakers


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