\ 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 Every time the hapless Blount exited his front door, a piercing alarm would wail., "Smart-home gadgets and video surveillance present new headaches at open houses," 9 May 2021 In the face of escalating alarm, the International Olympic Committee hasn’t wavered in its insistence that the Games will take place. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, "For the Warriors, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics are just a rumor," 8 May 2021 Customers with those products can contact Kidde for a free replacement alarm. Marlene Lenthang, ABC News, "226,000 smoke-carbon monoxide alarms recalled," 8 May 2021 The company and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission identified seven affected models on Thursday, advising that customers with those units contact Kidde for a free replacement alarm. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "Kidde recalls more than 200,000 smoke alarms over failure to warn of fire," 7 May 2021 The model number is printed on the back of the alarm. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "Smoke detector recall: Kidde recalls 226,000 smoke alarms because they can 'fail to alert consumers to a fire'," 6 May 2021 Elsewhere, the Nest Hub has a sunrise alarm which brightens the screen to wake you up gently, simulating the sun gradually rising. Janhoi Mcgregor, Forbes, "The New Google Nest Hub Has Smarter Sleep Tracking, And I Don’t Have To Wear A Single Gadget For It," 4 May 2021 Two even carry protection, one pepper spray and another a personal security alarm. Washington Post, "Comfort and connection," 4 May 2021 But the county’s first-dose vaccine appointments have dropped by half, to public health officials’ alarm, as demand and vaccination rates fall sharply. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Eli Broad dies," 1 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The lie is gaining enough traction to alarm voting officials, starting with California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, "Trump's big lie is alive and well in California," 9 May 2021 Many children have devoted even more time to video games during the last year, and while that may alarm parents, experts say there’s no reason for concern. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus Today: Pomp and a bad circumstance," 7 May 2021 On Monday, she was hit with new criminal charges — making a statement that could alarm the public and inducing someone to act against the state — that could put her in prison for years. New York Times, "Myanmar’s Military Deploys Digital Arsenal of Repression in Crackdown," 1 Mar. 2021 The shift to alarm over Biden’s immigration policy has come remarkably fast. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Biden backlash: ‘Immigration Index’ shows rejection of open borders," 23 Feb. 2021 Is that something that kind of reverts to mean in the Biden era or is there a start of a trend there that continues in some way and that could alarm Democrats. NBC News, "Meet the Press - December 6, 2020," 6 Dec. 2020 But critics of techno-enhancement, who superficially might seem more credible, indulge in hype too, to alarm us. John Horgan, Scientific American, "Premature Freak-Outs about Techno-Enhancement," 23 Jan. 2021 Acquiring an operational system would alarm its rivals and neighbors because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect in advance. Time, "North Korea Holds a Huge Military Parade as Kim Vows to Expand His Nuclear Program," 15 Jan. 2021 Short-term side effects, though widely expected among the medical community, could alarm some people. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "Who should get a vaccine first — the pensioner or the politician?," 10 Dec. 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

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Alarm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 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
: 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on alarm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alarm

Nglish: Translation of alarm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alarm for Arabic Speakers

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