lock·​down ˈläk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce lockdown (audio)
plural lockdowns
: the confinement of prisoners to their cells for all or most of the day as a temporary security measure
: an emergency measure or condition in which people are temporarily prevented from entering or leaving a restricted area or building (such as a school) during a threat of danger
For those of you unfamiliar with a school lockdown, it basically means that … when there is a threat of danger, the doors to all the classrooms and offices are locked.Anne Sponholtz
lockdown drills/procedures
: a temporary condition imposed by governmental authorities (as during the outbreak of an epidemic disease) in which most people are required to refrain from or limit activities outside the home involving public contact (such as dining out or attending large gatherings)
Authorities placed the central Chinese city under lockdown on Jan. 23 after the virus had infected hundreds of residents and was just starting its spread across the globe.Darryl Coote
The San Francisco Bay Area lockdown and national guidelines signal a rapid escalation of government and business efforts to halt the coronavirus spread via restrictions that will slam the brakes on economic activity.Ed Carson
While most people are at home during lockdown, essential workers are still on the front lines and need their children to be looked after.George Heagney

Examples of lockdown in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Seventeen people died in TDCJ facilities since the lockdown started for the population of about 129,800, a prison spokeswoman said. Aria Jones, Dallas News, 15 Sep. 2023 The escape prompted George Washington University to go into lockdown and ask students to shelter in place, and Metropolitan Police Chief Pamela Smith launched an internal investigation into the circumstances of the getaway. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, 15 Sep. 2023 The theater had just reopened following COVID-19 lockdown. Kate Tuttle, Peoplemag, 13 Sep. 2023 Share [Findings] A psycholinguistic analysis of posts on Twitter and Weibo during COVID-19 lockdowns found that residents of Lombardy grew increasingly focused on leisure and residents of Wuhan grew increasingly focused on religion. Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, Harper's Magazine, 13 Sep. 2023 While Wilson was contemplating the Greeks sickening in their camp, and the Trojans caged behind their city walls, the plague of Covid forced her family of five into lockdown. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 Part of the coordination strategy was deciding when to evacuate communities and when to use lockdowns instead, in order to leave the roads clear for firefighters and emergency services to access burning areas. Colette Davidson, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 Sep. 2023 The Chinese economy is weighed down by a property bubble, local government debt, high youth unemployment and a broader inability to rebound as expected from pandemic lockdowns. Aamer Madhani and Josh Boak, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Sep. 2023 Their car, however, was later found near Laurel Elementary, which briefly went on lockdown due to its proximity to the suspects, Harvey said. Grace Toohey, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lockdown.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1973, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of lockdown was in 1973

Dictionary Entries Near lockdown

Cite this Entry

“Lockdown.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lockdown. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Legal Definition


lock·​down ˈläk-ˌdau̇n How to pronounce lockdown (audio)
: the confinement of prisoners to their cells for a temporary period as a security measure

More from Merriam-Webster on lockdown

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