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  1. the act or utterance of one who warns or the existence, appearance, sound, etc., of a thing that warns.
  2. something that serves to warn, give notice, or caution: We fired a warning at the intruders.
  3. Meteorology. an announcement from the U.S. National Weather Service alerting the public that a storm or other weather-related hazard is imminent and that immediate steps should be taken to protect lives and property.Compare advisory(def 5), storm warning(def 2), watch(def 20).
  1. serving to warn, advise, caution: a warning bell.

Origin of warning

before 900; Middle English (noun); Old English war(e)nung precaution; see warn, -ing1, -ing2
Related formswarn·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for warning

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verb (used with object)
  1. to give notice, advice, or intimation to (a person, group, etc.) of danger, impending evil, possible harm, or anything else unfavorable: They warned him of a plot against him. She was warned that her life was in danger.
  2. to urge or advise to be careful; caution: to warn a careless driver.
  3. to admonish or exhort, as to action or conduct: She warned her employees to be on time.
  4. to notify, advise, or inform: to warn a person of an intended visit.
  5. to give notice to (a person, group, etc.) to go, keep at a distance, etc. (often followed by away, off, etc.): A sign warns trespassers off the grounds. A marker warned boats away from the dock.
  6. to give authoritative or formal notice to (someone); order; summon: to warn a person to appear in court.
verb (used without object)
  1. to give a warning; caution: to warn of further disasters.

Origin of warn

before 1000; Middle English warnen, Old English warnian; cognate with German warnen. Cf. ware2
Related formswarn·er, nounpre·warn, verb (used with object)re·warn, verb (used with object)un·warned, adjectivewell-warned, adjective

Synonyms for warn

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Synonym study

Warn, caution, admonish imply attempting to prevent another from running into danger or getting into unpleasant or undesirable circumstances. To warn is to speak plainly and usually in strong terms: to warn him about danger and possible penalties. To caution is to advise about necessary precautions, to put one on one's guard about possibly harmful circumstances or conditions, thus emphasizing avoidance of undesirable consequences: to caution him against driving in such weather. Admonish suggests giving earnest, authoritative advice with only tacit references to danger or penalty: to admonish a person for neglecting his duties.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for warning

Contemporary Examples of warning

Historical Examples of warning

  • The brothers must be on the watch, and ready to join her at a moment's warning.

  • There was profound conviction in the emphasis with which she spoke her warning.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • The Inspector shot a word of warning to Gilder in an aside that Dick could not hear.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Was not the deed perpetrated as an example and warning for himself?

  • She was much inclined to laugh, however; for it did not seem to her that the warning was at all necessary.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

British Dictionary definitions for warning


  1. a hint, intimation, threat, etc, of harm or danger
  2. advice to beware or desist
  3. an archaic word for notice (def. 6)
  1. (prenominal) intended or serving to warna warning look
  2. (of the coloration of certain distasteful or poisonous animals) having conspicuous markings, which predators recognize and learn to avoid; aposematic
Derived Formswarningly, adverb


  1. to notify or make (someone) aware of danger, harm, etc
  2. (tr; often takes a negative and an infinitive) to advise or admonish (someone) as to action, conduct, etcI warn you not to do that again
  3. (takes a clause as object or an infinitive) to inform (someone) in advancehe warned them that he would arrive late
  4. (tr; usually foll by away, off, etc) to give notice to go away, be off, etche warned the trespassers off his ground
Derived Formswarner, noun

Word Origin for warn

Old English wearnian; related to Old High German warnēn, Old Norse varna to refuse
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

Word Origin and History for warning



Old English warnian "to give notice of impending danger," also intransitive, "to take heed," from West Germanic *warnojanan (cf. Old Norse varna "to admonish," Old High German warnon "to take heed," German warnen "to warn"); related to Old English wær "aware, cautious" (see wary). Related: Warned; warning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper