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 Nursing homes were identified as particularly hard hit early in the coronavirus crisis in Ohio, resulting in restrictions on visitation and increased monitoring. Rich Exner, cleveland, "At least 1,247 Ohio nursing home patients have died with coronavirus, 70% of total COVID-19 deaths, state reports," 21 May 2020 Where to find Family Violence Resources: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 National Parent Helpline at 1-855-427-2736 Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Cassandra Jaramillo, Dallas News, "UT-Dallas study finds family violence increased 12.5% during shelter-at-home orders," 19 May 2020 While monetary financing is controversial, some have suggested it may be needed in the current crisis. David Goodman, Bloomberg.com, "BOE’s Bailey Rejects Monetary Financing in Virus Battle," 18 May 2020 Unlike businesses that are cutting budgets to stay afloat, Amazon is built to optimize in a crisis. Brian Dumaine, Fortune, "Amazon was built for the pandemic—and will likely emerge from it stronger than ever," 18 May 2020 Now, scientists are racing to understand if long-term exposure to air pollution plays a role in the coronavirus crisis, particularly since minorities are disproportionately dying. Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, "In the Shadows of America’s Smokestacks, Virus Is One More Deadly Risk," 17 May 2020 For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub EVERYTHING HAPPENS faster in a crisis. The Economist, "Escaping the lockdown Don’t rely on contract-tracing apps," 16 May 2020 Early in the coronavirus crisis, the US was a testing laggard. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Sorry, Mr. President, America’s testing capacity isn’t “unrivaled”," 15 May 2020 When our nation is in crisis, the U.S. Army has always lead the way in serving and protecting us. Rebecca Angel Baer, Southern Living, "U.S. Army Band Performs Song to Inspire Americans During Coronavirus Pandemic," 15 May 2020

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

Time Traveler for crisis

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for crisis

Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Crisis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crisis. Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for crisis

crisis

noun
How to pronounce crisis (audio)

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

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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

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!