crisis

noun
cri·​sis | \ ˈkrī-səs How to pronounce crisis (audio) \
plural crises\ ˈkrī-​ˌsēz How to pronounce crises (audio) \

Definition of crisis

1a : the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever
b : a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function
c : an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person's life a midlife crisis
2 : the decisive moment (as in a literary plot) The crisis of the play occurs in Act 3.
3a : an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending especially : one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome a financial crisis the nation's energy crisis
b : a situation that has reached a critical phase the environmental crisis the unemployment crisis

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for crisis

juncture, exigency, emergency, contingency, pinch, strait (or straits) crisis mean a critical or crucial time or state of affairs. juncture stresses the significant concurrence or convergence of events. an important juncture in our country's history exigency stresses the pressure of restrictions or urgency of demands created by a special situation. provide for exigencies emergency applies to a sudden unforeseen situation requiring prompt action to avoid disaster. the presence of mind needed to deal with emergencies contingency implies an emergency or exigency that is regarded as possible but uncertain of occurrence. contingency plans pinch implies urgency or pressure for action to a less intense degree than exigency or emergency. come through in a pinch strait, now commonly straits, applies to a troublesome situation from which escape is extremely difficult. in dire straits crisis applies to a juncture whose outcome will make a decisive difference. a crisis of confidence

Semantic Crisis Intervention

Some people are bothered by changes in a word’s meaning (see: literally), while others have a more relaxed attitude towards semantic drift. For those who feel vexed when a word seems to have suddenly changed its spots, it may be of some comfort to know that words in English do this all the time; crisis is a fine example. Originally, crisis denoted “the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever.” Now it most commonly means “a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention,” yet few people insist that it should be used exclusively in its older meaning. The normality of semantic change can be seen in another word that first appeared in febrile contexts: hectic, which now is primarily used to mean “very busy,” originally referred to a fever that was fluctuating but recurrent.

Examples of crisis in a Sentence

She was dealing with a family crisis at the time. Most people blame the government for the country's worsening economic crisis. last year's state budget crisis In times of national crisis, we need strong leaders we can trust. A year ago, both companies were in crisis.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Candace has also seemingly stood by Lori throughout the recent crisis, making her all the more likely to come to Abigail's rescue and revive Hope Valley. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Who Will Replace Lori Loughlin on 'When Calls the Heart?' Here Are 6 Popular Theories," 31 Mar. 2019 By the end of the 2000s, Constellation was in crisis. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "Not Going Back to the Moon: A Brief Timeline," 27 Mar. 2019 But the system for apprehending and detaining children and families is in crisis — and the consequences have been deadly. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trump administration to release hundreds of immigrant families from detention," 27 Dec. 2018 Something that could have given health organizations a heads-up, allowing them to organize an effective response, contain the disease’s spread, save tens of thousands of lives and prevent an international crisis? Mallory Locklear, Discover Magazine, "With Big Data and Predictive Analytics, Scientists Are Getting Smarter About Outbreaks," 8 Nov. 2018 Wall Street faces a crisis that touches the very core of its largely male workforce. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Patagonia Triggers a Market Panic Over New Rules on Its Power Vests," 8 Apr. 2019 Nightflyers is facing a similar existential crisis. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers asks whether humanity deserves to be saved," 29 Nov. 2018 Babs Ryan, a vice president and consulting director at Forrester Research covering consumer and retail, says retail faces a labor crisis. Patrick Sisson, Vox, "In Walmart’s virtual reality simulation, Black Friday never ends," 15 Nov. 2018 Federal regulators proposed easing a rule that required big banks to plan annually for their own demise, the latest move by regulators under President Trump to loosen controls put in place after the financial crisis. Liz Hoffman, WSJ, "Fed Moves to Ease Living Wills, Allowing Large Banks to File Wind-Down Plans Less Frequently," 8 Apr. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'crisis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of crisis

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for crisis

Middle English crise, crisis, borrowed from Latin crisis "judgment, critical stage," borrowed from Greek krísis "act of separating, decision, judgment, event, outcome, turning point, sudden change," from kri-, variant stem of krī́nein "to separate, choose, decide, judge" + -sis, suffix forming nouns of action or process — more at certain entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about crisis

Statistics for crisis

Last Updated

11 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for crisis

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for crisis

crisis

noun

English Language Learners Definition of crisis

: a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention

crisis

noun
cri·​sis | \ ˈkrī-səs How to pronounce crisis (audio) \
plural crises\ ˈkrī-​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of crisis

: a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention a medical crisis

crisis

noun
cri·​sis | \ ˈkrī-səs How to pronounce crisis (audio) \
plural crises\ -​ˌsēz How to pronounce crises (audio) \

Medical Definition of crisis

1 : the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever especially : a sudden turn for the better (as sudden abatement in severity of symptoms or abrupt drop in temperature) — compare lysis sense 1
2 : a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function tabetic crisis cardiac crisis
3 : an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person's life
4 : a psychological or social condition characterized by unusual instability caused by excessive stress and either endangering or felt to endanger the continuity of an individual or group especially : such a social condition requiring the transformation of cultural patterns and values

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on crisis

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with crisis

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for crisis

Spanish Central: Translation of crisis

Nglish: Translation of crisis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of crisis for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about crisis

Comments on crisis

What made you want to look up crisis? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

something valued as if it were money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!