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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Messi picked up a calf problem during pre-season and has not been seen since, whilst Suarez tore his own calf muscle during the 1-0 defeat to Athletic Club on the opening day of the season, leaving Barcelona in somewhat of an injury crisis., "Lionel Messi & Luis Suarez Yet to Return to Barcelona Training & Doubts for Valencia Clash," 10 Sep. 2019 But last year's government shutdown, as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis at America's southern border, have led to delays in renewals. Louis Cheslaw, Condé Nast Traveler, "You Can Now Use Global Entry For a Year After Its Expiration Date," 5 Sep. 2019 The northerly movement comes after relief officials reported scenes of utter ruin Tuesday in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis, with the full scope of the disaster still unknown. Richard Tribou,, "Hurricane Dorian continues sideswipe assault on Florida coast," 4 Sep. 2019 Harris’ plan tackles America’s drinking water crisis and increasing penalties for companies who pollute. Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "Harris, Warren Reveal Climate Plans Ahead Of CNN Town Hall On Global Warming," 4 Sep. 2019 Such hope, however, was in short supply Wednesday, as officials warned of an impending health crisis. New York Times, "Bahamas Stunned as Hurricane Recedes: ‘It’s Like a Bomb Went Off’," 3 Sep. 2019 Since the Flint drinking water crisis erupted five years ago, Americans have realized that many cities and towns struggle to ensure safe water. Maura C. Allaire, The Conversation, "How to address America’s lead crisis and provide safe drinking water for all," 3 Sep. 2019 This potential bankruptcy is just one example of many financial crises other retailers in the industry have faced within the past year. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, "New Reports Claim Forever 21 Is Preparing to File for Bankruptcy," 29 Aug. 2019 One where the political divide between left and right has put our country slap dap in the middle of a cultural crisis that seems to have no solution. Melanie Hamlett, Glamour, "Designing Women Was a Series Ahead of Its Time. In 2019, It’s Still Revolutionary," 26 Aug. 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.

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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

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Statistics for crisis

Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for crisis

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

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More Definitions for crisis



English Language Learners Definition of crisis

: a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention


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


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

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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 Encyclopedia article about crisis

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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