: the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever
: a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function
: an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person's life
a midlife crisis
: the decisive moment (as in a literary plot)
The crisis of the play occurs in Act 3.
: 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
: a situation that has reached a critical phase
the environmental crisis
the unemployment crisis
Did you know?
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.
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
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.
Recent Examples on the WebWest Virginia has settled with Walgreens for the pharmacy chain's role in the opioid crisis.—Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 19 Jan. 2023 Now, residents are in a crisis and bitterly divided.—Sasha Hupka, The Arizona Republic, 19 Jan. 2023 However, here the son in question isn’t Nicholas (Zen McGrath), a 17-year-old in crisis, but his father, Peter (Hugh Jackman), a workaholic lawyer who left Nicholas’s mother, Kate (Laura Dern), for the much younger Beth (Vanessa Kirby).—Odie Henderson, BostonGlobe.com, 19 Jan. 2023 Failure to live up to the expectations of the public in its response could result in a crisis for the Chinese Communist Party, whose legitimacy is tied closely to economic growth.—Fortune, 18 Jan. 2023 Failure to live up to the expectations of the public in its response could result in a crisis for the Chinese Communist Party, whose legitimacy is tied closely to economic growth.—Feng Wang, The Conversation, 18 Jan. 2023 Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals in crisis.—Arkansas Online, 16 Jan. 2023 The World Health Organization on Saturday asked China to release additional information and statistics about its battle with COVID-19 after recent data revealed a country in crisis over the pandemic.—Justin Klawans, The Week, 15 Jan. 2023 The Turkish president has sought to leverage his role in the crisis to expand his international influence and improve his standing within Turkey and internationally.—Jared Malsin, WSJ, 14 Jan. 2023 See More
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.
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