[ uh-lahrm ]
See synonyms for alarm on
  1. a sudden fear or distressing suspense caused by an awareness of danger; apprehension; fright.

  2. any sound, outcry, or information intended to warn of approaching danger: Paul Revere raced through the countryside raising the alarm that the British were coming.

  1. an automatic device that serves to call attention, to rouse from sleep, or to warn of fire, smoke, an intruder, etc.

  2. a warning sound; signal for attention.

  3. Animal Behavior. any sound, outcry, chemical discharge, action, or other signal that functions to draw attention to a potential predator.

  4. Fencing. an appeal or a challenge made by a step or stamp on the ground with the advancing foot.

  5. Archaic. a call to arms.

verb (used with object)
  1. to make fearful or apprehensive; distress.

  2. to warn of danger; rouse to vigilance and swift measures for safety.

  1. to fit or equip with an alarm or alarms, as for fire, smoke, or robbery: to alarm one's house and garage.

Origin of alarm

1350–1400; Middle English alarme, alarom<Middle French <Old Italian allarme, noun from phrase all'arme to (the) arms. See arm2

synonym study For alarm

1. See fear. 8. See frighten.

Other words for alarm

Other words from alarm

  • a·larm·a·ble, adjective
  • a·larm·ed·ly [uh-lahr-mid-lee], /əˈlɑr mɪd li/, adverb
  • pre·a·larm, verb (used with object), noun
  • un·a·larmed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use alarm in a sentence

  • The night passed amid various excursions on the part of Aristide and alarms on the part of Jean.

  • Elizabeth, meanwhile, was filled with alarms respecting her daughter's unhappy infatuation.

  • The alarms and excursions of the past three weeks were naturally trying to a girl born and bred in a quiet Devon village.

    The Red Year | Louis Tracy
  • Here I had no alarms, no fatiguing journeys, no anxiety; my mind became calm and unruffled, and I was once more at peace.

    Confessions of a Thug | Philip Meadows Taylor
  • The ministers of religion possess the secret of tempering the alarms which they have the art to excite.

    Letters To Eugenia | Paul Henri Thiry Holbach

British Dictionary definitions for alarm


/ (əˈlɑːm) /

  1. to fill with apprehension, anxiety, or fear

  2. to warn about danger; alert

  1. to fit or activate a burglar alarm on a house, car, etc

  1. fear or terror aroused by awareness of danger; fright

  2. apprehension or uneasiness: the idea of failing filled him with alarm

  1. a noise, signal, etc, warning of danger

  2. any device that transmits such a warning: a burglar alarm

    • the device in an alarm clock that triggers off the bell or buzzer

    • short for alarm clock

  3. archaic a call to arms

  4. fencing a warning or challenge made by stamping the front foot

Origin of alarm

C14: from Old French alarme, from Old Italian all'arme to arms; see arm ²

Derived forms of alarm

  • alarming, adjective
  • alarmingly, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with alarm


see false alarm.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.