emergency

noun

emer·​gen·​cy i-ˈmər-jən(t)-sē How to pronounce emergency (audio)
plural emergencies
often attributive
1
: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action
2
: an urgent need for assistance or relief
the mayor declared a state of emergency after the flood
Choose the Right Synonym for emergency

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

Her quick thinking in an emergency saved the baby's life. an alert, quick-thinking girl who is good to have around in an emergency
Recent Examples on the Web One potential solution pitched by students is using schools' current communication systems to quickly blast texts and emails to guardians in case of an emergency or to teachers in case of a drill. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, 24 Jan. 2023 Westwater said the gates are designed stay open automatically in case of an emergency. Ashley Soebroto, BostonGlobe.com, 24 Jan. 2023 Let children know whom to call, where to meet and how to communicate in case of an emergency. Los Angeles Times, 24 Jan. 2023 The council simultaneously voted to lift the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency declaration next month, following a similar move by the state that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October. San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Jan. 2023 In the case of an emergency, the generator is able to offer power to keep your electronics charged and your appliances working. Stack Commerce, Popular Science, 24 Jan. 2023 The trees were quickly uprooted, and the country, which relies on organic banana production for its economic survival, declared a state of emergency. Agostino Petroni, Bon Appétit, 23 Jan. 2023 Her husband keeps his phone in the bedroom in case of an emergency. Julie Jargon, WSJ, 21 Jan. 2023 The government has extended a state of emergency to six regions, curtailing some civil rights. Reuters, NBC News, 21 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'emergency.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1631, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of emergency was circa 1631

Dictionary Entries Near emergency

Cite this Entry

“Emergency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emergency. Accessed 4 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

emergency

noun
emer·​gen·​cy i-ˈmər-jən-sē How to pronounce emergency (audio)
plural emergencies
1
: an unexpected situation that calls for immediate action
2
: an urgent need for help
a state of emergency

Medical Definition

emergency

noun
emer·​gen·​cy i-ˈmər-jən-sē How to pronounce emergency (audio)
plural emergencies
: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action: as
a
: a sudden bodily alteration (as a ruptured appendix or surgical shock) such as is likely to require immediate medical attention
b
: a usually distressing event or condition that can often be anticipated or prepared for but seldom exactly foreseen

Legal Definition

emergency

noun
emer·​gen·​cy
plural emergencies
1
: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action
2
: an urgent need for assistance or relief
a state of emergency

More from Merriam-Webster on emergency

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?

PLAY