crisis

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

Essential Meaning of crisis

: a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention the AIDS crisis She was dealing with a family crisis at the time. See More ExamplesMost people blame the government for the country's worsening economic/financial/fiscal crisis. last year's state budget crisis an energy/fuel/water crisis [=a time when there is not enough energy/fuel/water] a hostage crisis [=a situation in which someone is holding people as hostages] In times of national crisis, we need strong leaders we can trust. A year ago, both companies were in crisis.Hide

Full 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 But suddenly, in the midst of this crisis, that's the information that gives John F. Kennedy and the EXCOMM the wiggle room to seek a diplomatic solution. CBS News, 13 Oct. 2021 Bangstad, who was forced to shut down his brewpub during the pandemic, has been critical of his state's handling of the health crisis. The Washington Post, Arkansas Online, 13 Oct. 2021 Bangstad, who was forced to shut down his brewpub during the pandemic, has been critical of his state’s handling of the health crisis. Gina Harkins, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Oct. 2021 This win-win arrangement reflected the kind of mutual appreciation of each side’s needs that must exist outside moments of national crisis. Oliver Wyman, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 Seeking support in time of a crisis is a strength and not weakness. Essence, 12 Oct. 2021 Bangstad, who was forced to shut down his brewpub during the pandemic, has been critical of his state’s handling of the health crisis. Washington Post, 12 Oct. 2021 There's free therapy twice a month and a company emergency fund, where employees can go for financial help in times of crisis. Ayana Archie, The Courier-Journal, 11 Oct. 2021 But other services are not on such a steady path, and critics say the large gaps between vaccination deadlines jeopardize how ready the military can be in a moment of crisis. BostonGlobe.com, 11 Oct. 2021

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

Dictionary Entries Near crisis

crisic

crisis

crisis theologian

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for crisis

Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Crisis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crisis. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for crisis

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 crisis (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

More from Merriam-Webster on crisis

Nglish: Translation of crisis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of crisis for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about crisis

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

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!