American English

Definition of alarm noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[uncountable] fear and anxiety that someone feels when something dangerous or unpleasant might happen “What have you done?” Ellie cried in alarm. I felt a growing sense of alarm when he did not return that night. The doctor said there was no cause for alarm. Thesaurusfearterror panic alarm frightThese are all words for the bad feeling you have when you are afraid.fear the bad feeling that you have when you are in danger, when something bad might happen, or when a particular thing frightens you:(a) fear of flying She showed no fear.terror a feeling of extreme fear:His eyes were wild with terror.panic a sudden feeling of great fear that cannot be controlled and prevents you from thinking clearly:I had a sudden moment of panic.alarm fear or worry that someone feels when something dangerous or unpleasant might happen:The doctor said there was no cause for alarm.fright a feeling of fear, usually sudden:I cried out in fright.fear or fright?Fright is a reaction to something that has just happened or is happening now. Use fear, but not fright, to talk about things that always frighten you and things that may happen in the future:I have a fright of spiders. his fright of what might happenPatterns a fear/terror of something in fear/terror/panic/alarm/fright fear/terror/panic/alarm that… to be filled with fear/terror/panic/alarm a feeling of fear/terror/panic/alarm
  2. 2[countable, usually singular] a loud noise or a signal that warns people of danger or of a problem She decided to sound the alarm (= warn people that the situation was dangerous). I hammered on all the doors to raise the alarm. By the time the alarm was raised the intruders had escaped. see also false alarm
  3. 3[countable] a device that warns people of a particular danger a burglar/fire/smoke alarm The cat set off the alarm (= made it start ringing). A car alarm went off in the middle of the night (= started ringing).
  4. 4= alarm clock The alarm went off at 7 o'clock.
  5. Idioms
    alarm bells ring/start ringing, (something) sets off alarm bells
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    if you say that alarm bells are ringing or that something sets off alarm bells, you mean that people are starting to feel worried and suspicious The government's proposal has set alarm bells ringing for people on low incomes.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: alarm