\ 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 The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sounded alarm bells about Democratic spending in Colorado and three other states. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "Democratic groups slam Cory Gardner on-air and online while he and Republicans stay quiet," 25 Nov. 2019 Apple has taken a comparatively hands-off approach with chat apps that connect people, including teens, with strangers, even as parenting groups and law enforcement have raised alarm bells. Reed Albergotti, Washington Post, "The prevalence of unwanted sexual content raises questions about whether Apple can continue to offer a protective cocoon to its customers as its platform grows.," 22 Nov. 2019 Apple has taken a comparatively hands-off approach with chat apps that connect people, including teens, with strangers, even as parenting groups and law enforcement have raised alarm bells. Anchorage Daily News, "Apple got more than 1,500 complaints of unwanted sexual approaches on social networking apps," 22 Nov. 2019 My father has been ringing the alarm bell on these issues for years. Simon Perry,, "Kate Middleton Cancels Outing with Prince William at the Last-Minute Because of Her Kids," 21 Nov. 2019 Lawsuit over funding For years, school officials have sounded alarm bells over aging school infrastructure. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "It's raining in some Arizona classrooms that lack funding for repairs," 20 Nov. 2019 The brief should set off alarm bells for everyone who cares about gender equality. Emma Roth, Teen Vogue, "Trump Justice Department Says It's Fine If Women Are Forced to Wear Skirts," 14 Nov. 2019 When the same thing happened in March this year, alarm bells rang across corporate boardrooms and political campaigns. The Economist, "America’s yield curve is no longer inverted," 14 Nov. 2019 Across Europe, far-right parties have made gains in recent years, setting off alarm bells about the bloc’s political direction., "Poll brings Spain no respite from political uncertainty - The Boston Globe," 12 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The amount of microplastic in the world's oceans is a million times greater than previously thought, according to alarming new research. Fox News, "Oceans contain a million times more microplastic than we realized, alarming study claims," 5 Dec. 2019 Wilson was alarmed her children didn't wake up when their the smoke alarm went off. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In wake of dishwasher fires, Wauwatosa and Brookfield families encourage owners to check recalls," 3 Dec. 2019 His comments were widely taken as an attempt to reset relations with Moscow, alarming some in eastern Europe, particularly those countries on NATO's front line who remember Kremlin rule and still feel its influence today. Alexander Smith, NBC News, "NATO meeting: Trump is far from the only problem on alliance's 70th birthday," 3 Dec. 2019 On a conference call after the debate, several of Ms. Harris’s donors were alarmed and urged the campaign to strike back at Ms. Gabbard more aggressively, two people on the call said. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "How Kamala Harris’s Campaign Unraveled," 29 Nov. 2019 Suicides in farm communities are happening with alarming frequency. Alana Semuels / Fremont, Time, "'They're Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map.' Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction," 27 Nov. 2019 That Mr Xi is heading in the other direction should alarm everybody. The Economist, "Xi’s embrace of false history and fearsome weapons is worrying," 3 Oct. 2019 Meg Vertigan, lecturer in English and writing and academic advisor at the University of Newcastle As Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN climate summit last week reverberates across the world, claims by critics over her mental state are alarming. Camilla Nelson, Quartz, "Why angry middle-aged men are so threatened by Greta Thunberg," 2 Oct. 2019 Business Insider Don’t worry, be happy: Three prominent Chinese economists, who advise the government, say China should not be alarmed if the nation’s growth rate drops to 5% or even 4%; there will still be plenty of jobs to go around. Fortune, "Time is Running Out for a U.S.-China Trade Deal," 21 Sep. 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

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

7 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 14 December 2019.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alarm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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 assail by words or arguments

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