alarm

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alarm bell

A sudden warning or intimation of danger, risk, or ill fortune. (Often pluralized.) Alarm bells were going off in my head when I saw the panicked expression on her face.
See also: alarm, bell

cause for alarm

A reason to be worried, frightened, or concerned about something. The X-ray showed a slight discoloration in my lungs, but my doctor assured me it was no cause for alarm. There was cause for alarm when we noticed our boss shredding all the files in her office.
See also: alarm, cause

sound the alarm

1. Literally, to activate an alarm. I think I see smoke coming from the warehouse. Someone run upstairs and sound the alarm!
2. To alert other people about something dangerous, risky, or troublesome. A number of top economic advisors tried to sound the alarm before the economic crash, but no policy makers seemed to heed their warnings.
See also: alarm, sound

raise the alarm

1. Literally, to activate an alarm. I think I see smoke coming from the warehouse. Someone run upstairs and raise the alarm!
2. To alert other people about something dangerous, risky, or troublesome. A number of top economic advisors tried to raise the alarm before the economic crash, but no policy makers seemed to heed their warnings.
See also: alarm, raise

false alarm

A benign situation initially mistaken for an emergency. Mary thought she was going into labor, but it turned out to be a false alarm. When the smoke detectors started beeping, we thought the building was on fire, but it was just a false alarm caused by faulty wiring.
See also: alarm, false

I don't want to alarm you, but

 and I don't want to upset you, but
an expression used to introduce bad or shocking news or gossip. Bill: I don't want to alarm you, but I see someone prowling around your car. Mary: Oh, goodness! I'll call the police! Bob: I don't want to upset you, but I have some bad news. Tom: Let me have it.
See also: alarm, but, want

set off alarm bells

also ring alarm bells
to warn of trouble and the need for action The report about worldwide climate change should sound alarm bells in every community.
See also: alarm, bell, off, set

set (the) alarm bells ringing

if something sets alarm bells ringing, it makes you feel worried because it is a sign that there may be a problem Symptoms which should set alarm bells ringing are often ignored by doctors.
See also: alarm, bell, ring, set

a false alarm

a situation when you think that something bad or dangerous is going to happen but you discover you were wrong Someone called to say there was a bomb inside the building, but it turned out to be a false alarm.
See also: alarm, false

false alarm

A warning signal that is groundless, made either by mistake or as a deliberate deception. For example, The rumor that we were all going to get fired was just a false alarm, or Setting off a false alarm is a criminal offense. This expression, first recorded in 1579, today is often used for a report of a nonexistent fire.
See also: alarm, false

a three-alarm fire

and a five-alarm fire
n. someone or something very exciting. Work was a nightmare today. A five-alarm fire with crisis after crisis.
See also: fire

a five-alarm fire

verb
See also: fire
References in classic literature ?
Tom's extreme impatience to be removed to Mansfield, and experience those comforts of home and family which had been little thought of in uninterrupted health, had probably induced his being conveyed thither too early, as a return of fever came on, and for a week he was in a more alarming state than ever.
Will it be believed that, after Aglaya's alarming words, an ineradicable conviction had taken possession of his mind that, however he might try to avoid this vase next day, he must certainly break it?
We regret to announce that this venerable lady was seized with an alarming illness on Saturday last, at her mansion in town.
And hardly had those words been uttered when there sounded the cry once more, and longer and more alarming than before--also much nearer.
For my own part, I shrink from the idea of alarming the poor creature a second time, as I have most unhappily alarmed her already.
She had had a similar attack, of a less alarming kind, on the day she arrived at the farm; and Mrs.
This is somewhat understandable, considering that alarming appears to be a deceptively simple activity.
For many pipeline companies that were lacking in good alarm management analysis information, just determining where to start to clean up their current SCADA alarming was a significant challenge.