June 14, 2013
- alarm (noun)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : a warning of danger2 : a device that warns or signals (as by a bell, buzzer, or whistle)3 : the fear caused by a sudden sense of danger
- How do you use it?
- "The Lion thought it might be as well to frighten the Wizard, so he gave a large, loud roar, which was so fierce and dreadful that Toto jumped away from him in alarm and tipped over the screen that stood in a corner." (L. Frank Baum, _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_)
- Are you a word wiz?
Today we usually think of an alarm as a loud noise that wakens us or warns us of fire or some other danger. But its first use was very different. How do you think the root of "alarm" was used?"Alarm" traces to the Italian phrase "all'arme," which literally means "to your weapons" or "to arms" and was first used as a call to arms to soldiers. After being borrowed into French and Middle English, it was shortened to "alarme." (The final "-e" was dropped in English.) The word came to be used for the cry, as in "to give the alarm," then later for any warning. A bell or gun used to sound a warning was called an "alarm bell" or an "alarm gun," and it wasn't long before the signal device was called simply "alarm." Since an alarm can cause fright or worry, such feelings also came to be known as "alarm."