[ ih-mur-juhn-see ]
/ ɪˈmɜr dʒən si /
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See synonyms for: emergency / emergencies on Thesaurus.com

noun, plural e·mer·gen·cies.
a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action.
a state, especially of need for help or relief, created by some unexpected event: a weather emergency; a financial emergency.
emergency room: Bring him to emergency—the doctor will meet you there.
granted, used, or for use in an emergency: an emergency leave; emergency lights.
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Origin of emergency

First recorded in 1625–35; from Medieval Latin ēmergentia, equivalent to ēmerg- (see emerge) + -entia noun suffix (see -ency); see also emergent

synonym study for emergency

1. Emergency, crisis, straits refer to dangerous situations. An emergency is a situation demanding immediate action: A power failure created an emergency in transportation. A crisis is a vital or decisive turning point in a condition or state of affairs, and everything depends on the outcome of it: Help arrived when affairs had reached a crisis. Strait (usually straits ) suggests a pressing situation, often one of need or want: The family was in desperate straits for food and clothing.


non·e·mer·gen·cy, adjective, noun, plural non·e·mer·gen·cies.post·e·mer·gen·cy, adjectivepre·e·mer·gen·cy, adjective, noun, plural pre·e·mer·gen·cies.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is an emergency?

An emergency is an unexpected or urgent event that demands immediate attention. The event is often a serious or dangerous situation, such as not being able to breathe or a fire burning in one’s home. 

An emergency is similar to a crisis. In both situations, there is danger that needs to be resolved. An emergency often requires a faster response than a crisis because the danger is more immediate. A crisis may allow more time for planning. For example, being without a job can be a crisis if you already have some money to pay your bills with while you look for a new job. A job loss becomes an emergency when you don’t have any money to pay your bills.

There are many types of emergencies. You might experience a medical emergency, in which you need medical help right away. You might have a family emergency, in which you need to help someone in your family right away. Weather emergencies are situations in which weather is so severe that it could harm the people experiencing it. A snowstorm, tornado, and hurricane are all examples of weather emergencies.

As a noun, emergency can also be used to refer to the emergency department of a hospital. In this department, often called the ER (for emergency room) or A&E (for accident and emergency), patients with sudden and serious illnesses or injuries are treated quickly. 

As an adjective, emergency can be used to describe anything that requires attention that would be considered an emergency or that resolves an emergency. Your emergency savings, for example, would be money you saved solely for use in an emergency, such as suddenly needing to buy a new car. Emergency responders are people who respond in an emergency, such as firefighters and medical staff. As well, the Emergency Alert System is a national warning system used to warn people of events like hurricanes, child abductions, and evacuations. 

Example: The Hernandezes prepare for weather emergencies by stocking up on batteries, candles, and packaged foods.

Where does emergency come from?

The first records of the term emergency come from around the 1620s. It comes from the Medieval Latin word ēmergentia, also meaning “emergency.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of emergency?

  • nonemergency (adjective, noun)
  • postemergency (adjective)
  • preemergency (adjective, noun)

What are some synonyms for emergency?

What are some words that share a root or word element with emergency

What are some words that often get used in discussing emergency?

How is emergency used in real life?

Emergency is a very common word used for any event that arises requiring immediate action or immediate need for help.



Try using emergency!

True or False?

An emergency doesn’t require an immediate response.

How to use emergency in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for emergency

/ (ɪˈmɜːdʒənsɪ) /

noun plural -cies
  1. an unforeseen or sudden occurrence, esp of a danger demanding immediate remedy or action
  2. (as modifier)an emergency exit
  1. a patient requiring urgent treatment
  2. (as modifier)an emergency ward
state of emergency a condition, declared by a government, in which martial law applies, usually because of civil unrest or natural disaster
NZ a player selected to stand by to replace an injured member of a team; reserve
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