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.
  3. an automatic device that serves to call attention, to rouse from sleep, or to warn of fire, smoke, an intruder, etc.
  4. a warning sound; signal for attention.
  5. Animal Behavior. any sound, outcry, chemical discharge, action, or other signal that functions to draw attention to a potential predator.
  6. Fencing. an appeal or a challenge made by a step or stamp on the ground with the advancing foot.
  7. 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.
  3. to fit or equip with an alarm or alarms, as for fire, smoke, or robbery: to alarm one’s house and garage.

verb (tr)

  1. to fill with apprehension, anxiety, or fear
  2. to warn about danger; alert
  3. 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 uneasinessthe idea of failing filled him with alarm
  3. a noise, signal, etc, warning of danger
  4. any device that transmits such a warninga burglar alarm
    1. the device in an alarm clock that triggers off the bell or buzzer
    2. short for alarm clock
  5. archaic a call to arms
  6. fencing a warning or challenge made by stamping the front foot

early 14c., from Old French alarme (14c.), from Italian all’arme “to arms!” (literally “to the arms”). An interjection that came to be used as the word for the call or warning (cf. alert). Extended 16c. to “any sound to warn of danger or to arouse.” Weakened sense of “apprehension, unease” is from 1833. Variant alarum is due to the rolling -r- in the vocalized form. Sometimes in early years anglicized as all-arm. Alarm clock is attested from 1690s (as A Larum clock).


1580s, from alarm (n.). Related: Alarmed; alarming.

see false alarm.

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