Student Dictionary

5 entries found for alarm.
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Main Entry: 1alarm
Pronunciation: schwa-primarystresslärm
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English alarme "a call to arms," from early French alarme (same meaning), derived from early Italian all'arme, literally "to arms," from all' "to the" and arme "weapon," from Latin arma "weapon" --related to 3ARM
1 : a warning of danger
2 : a device that warns or signals (as by a bell, buzzer, or whistle) <sound the alarm> <set the alarm for six o'clock>
3 : the fear caused by a sudden sense of danger
synonym see FEAR
Word History Today we usually think of an alarm as a loud noise that awakens us or warns us of fire or some other danger. Its first use, however, was as a call to arms to soldiers in Italy. The Italian phrase all'arme! means literally "to arms" or "to your weapons." It was still used this way when borrowed into other languages, but gradually this call came to be shortened to alarme in early French and Middle English. The final -e was later dropped in English. The word also came to be used as the name for the cry, as for example to "give the alarm." Then it came to be used for any warning. A bell or gun used to sound a warning was called an alarm bell or an alarm gun. It wasn't long before people started thinking of alarm as the signal device itself. Then they dropped the second part of the phrase. Since an alarm can cause fright or worry, such feelings also came to be known as alarm. By the 17th century, the word was used as a verb, meaning "to warn of danger" and then "to frighten."

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