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

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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

Headlines and searing images made public in past days and weeks have served as a stark reminder for Americans far from the border of a crisis for which solutions seem scarce: An immigrant father and daughter drowned in the Rio Grande. Author: Elliot Spagat, Anchorage Daily News, "Jarring images of border cells surface ahead of July 4," 4 July 2019 Headlines and searing images made public in past days and weeks have served as a stark reminder for Americans far from the border of a crisis for which solutions seem scarce: An immigrant father and daughter drowned in the Rio Grande. Washington Post, "Jarring images of border cells surface ahead of July 4," 3 July 2019 Second, this was the middle of the housing crisis, so the chance of selling her century home was slim. Roxanne Washington, cleveland.com, "Cool Spaces: Cloak Factory condo in Warehouse District is perfect fit for sports fan," 3 July 2019 In addition to calling for the end of migrant detention centers and deportations, speakers also shared personal stories of the impact of the migrant crisis on their own lives. Jack Mccordick, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'Families belong together': Hundreds gather in Milwaukee to protest migrant detention centers," 2 July 2019 The cause of the crisis would appear to be simple math: The number of foster beds is decreasing, and the number of kids is on the rise. Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, "Foster-care 'crisis': More kids entering Arizona system as number of foster homes declines," 2 July 2019 Some Democrats consider borders that are porous and not dangerous to cross to be the most just and properly American outcome of the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "The Democratic Primary’s Moving Margins," 30 June 2019 And also the fact that people are very unaware of the climate crisis. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "Greta Thunberg’s chat with AOC is a powerful reminder that hope still works," 29 June 2019 But the scandal undermined the program’s credibility at the height of the foreclosure crisis — just as its mission was needed the most. Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, "5 housing schemes that dragged down Indianapolis neighborhoods," 28 June 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

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for crisis

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

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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

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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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about crisis

Comments on crisis

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