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From Middle English alarom, from Old Italian all'arme (to arms, to the weapons), from Latin arma, armorum (weapons).


alarum (plural alarums)

  1. (archaic) A danger signal or warning.
    • 1913, George Bernard Shaw, “Act I”, in Pygmalion:
      The rest is the irreducible minimum of poverty's needs: A wretched bed heaped with all sorts of coverings that have any warmth in them, a draped packing case with a basin and jug on it and a little looking glass over it, a chair and table, the refuse of some suburban kitchen, and an American alarum clock on the shelf above the unused fireplace []
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 20, in The China Governess[1]:
      The story struck the depressingly familiar note with which true stories ring in the tried ears of experienced policemen. [] The second note, the high alarum, not so familiar and always important since it indicates the paramount sin in Man's private calendar, took most of them by surprise although they had been well prepared.
  2. A call to arms.
    • c. 1605, William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, scene II
      (stage direction) A camp near Forres. Alarum within.
    • 1969, Michael Arlen, Living Room War
      It seems to me that by the same process they are also made less "real" - distinguished, in part, by the physical size of the television screen, which, for all the industry's advances, still shows one a picture of men three inches tall shooting at other men three inches tall, and trivialized, or at least tamed, by the enveloping cozy alarums of the household.
    • 2016, Christopher Kelly, The Pink Bus. Mapple Shade, New Jersey: Lethe Press. p. 95.
      On the cable news channels, especially, there were teary-eyed interviews with bystanders; alarums from both the gun control advocates on the one side and the Second Amendment nuts on the other; and--inevitably, inappropriately--debates over what the shooting might mean for this closely-watched Senate race.

Derived terms[edit]


alarum (third-person singular simple present alarums, present participle alaruming, simple past and past participle alarumed)

  1. (archaic) To sound alarums, to sound an alarm.
    • c. 1605 Shakespeare, Macbeth Act II, Scene I
      "Now o'er the one half-world Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate's offerings; and wither'd Murther, Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf, Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace, With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design Moves like a ghost."

Usage notes[edit]

  • Alarum is an old spelling of alarm (as a noun or a verb), which has stayed around as a deliberate archaism. Possibly it is retained because of its use in Shakespeare's plays.

See also[edit]




ālārum f

  1. genitive plural of āla