- an alarm button for use in an emergency, as to summon help.
- push/hit/press the panic button, Informal. to give way to panic in a distressing situation.
Origin of panic button
- a button or switch that operates any of various safety devices, for use in an emergency
- hit the panic button or press the panic button informal to react to a situation by demanding emergency action; become excited; panic
push the panic button
Also, press the panic button. Overreact to a situation, as in Don't worry; Jane is always pushing the panic button, but I'm sure the baby's fine. This term originated during World War II, when certain bombers had a bell-warning system so that the crew could bail out if the plane was severely hit. Occasionally a pilot would push the button in error, when there was only minor damage, causing the crew to bail out unnecessarily. By 1950 the expression had been transferred to other kinds of overreaction.