crisis

noun

cri·​sis ˈkrī-səs How to pronounce crisis (audio)
plural crises ˈkrī-ˌsēz How to pronounce crisis (audio)
1
a
: 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.
3
a
: 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

Did you know?

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.

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

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Growing protests in the world’s biggest manufacturing nation add a new element of uncertainty atop the Ukraine war, an energy crisis and inflation. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, 28 Nov. 2022 The idea to turn the space into a park was born before the airport was even decommissioned, but troubles over financing, the 2008 economic crisis, and disagreements over who would develop it, delayed the project again and again. Nell Lewis, CNN, 25 Nov. 2022 Neighbors had to evacuate while the bomb squad and crisis negotiators talked him down. Tori Otten, The New Republic, 21 Nov. 2022 As the world grapples with an energy crisis and high fossil-fuel prices fill the coffers of major producers, the political clout of carbon powers was on display at COP27. Time, 20 Nov. 2022 Many wealthy nations are facing a cost-of-living crisis and an energy crunch amid the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Sarah Kaplan, Evan Halper And Timothy Puko, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Nov. 2022 Bass will take control of a city marred by corruption scandals, with a spiraling homelessness crisis and profound inequities deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Julia Wickstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2022 The Turkish economy is also struggling with a currency crisis and one of the world’s highest rates of inflation, largely because of policies implemented by Mr. Erdogan’s government, economists say. Jared Malsin, WSJ, 13 Nov. 2022 Furthermore, the Covid-19 crisis and recent market volatility have created many pricing discontinuities which can offer attractive trading opportunities. Trefis Team, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near crisis

Cite this Entry

“Crisis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crisis. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

crisis

noun

cri·​sis ˈkrī-səs How to pronounce crisis (audio)
plural crises ˈkrī-ˌsēz How to pronounce crisis (audio)
1
: the turning point for better or worse in a disease
2
: a turning point (as in a person's life or in the plot of a story)
3
a
: an unstable or difficult time or state of affairs
a financial crisis
b
: a situation that has become very serious

Medical Definition

crisis

noun

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

More from Merriam-Webster on crisis

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