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

alarms and excursions

Frantic activity that causes a clamor. Often seen in Elizabethan drama as a stage direction denoting military activity. What on earth is going on? The alarms and excursions in the living room woke me from a sound sleep—keep it down!
See also: alarm, and, excursion

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

set alarm bells ringing

To cause concern due to being an indication that there is something wrong. The new report set alarm bells ringing among the board members because it forecasts a large decrease in enrollment. If your date asks you to meet in a secluded place, it should set alarm bells ringing.
See also: alarm, bell, ring, set

set off alarm bells

To cause concern due to being an indication that there is something wrong. The new report set off alarm bells among the board members because it forecasts a large decrease in enrollment. If your date asks you to meet in a secluded place, it should set off alarm bells.
See also: alarm, bell, off, set

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

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

alarm bells start to ring

COMMON If alarm bells start to ring, you begin to be aware of a problem in a situation. It was when the headaches suddenly got a lot worse that alarm bells started to ring. Note: You can also say something sets alarm bells ringing, meaning that something makes you start to be aware of a problem. His absence from work for three days had set alarm bells ringing. Note: You can also say warning bells start to ring. He didn't understand the half of it but warning bells were starting to ring in the back of his mind. Note: You can also say something sets warning bells ringing meaning that something makes you start to be aware of a problem. There was something in the way she spoke that set warning bells ringing in Brak's head.
See also: alarm, bell, ring, start

alarms and excursions

confused activity and uproar. humorous
Alarm was formerly spelled alarum , representing a pronunciation with a rolling of the ‘r’; the phrase was originally a call summoning soldiers to arms. The whole phrase is used in stage directions in Shakespeare to indicate a battle scene.
See also: alarm, and, excursion

a false aˈlarm

a warning of something, especially something unpleasant or dangerous, which does not in fact happen: They thought the packet contained a bomb but it was a false alarm.
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 periodicals archive ?
Chief execut ive Bert ie Armst rong said: "For an alarmingly wide proportion of the industry just now, survival is the key issue.
And alarmingly, it was also found a driver will take their eyes off the road for every five or six seconds to send or read a text.
The power struggle between President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Sharif threatens to paralyse the one-year-old government and, alarmingly for the US, distract the nuclear-armed country from its fight against Taliban militants operating along the Afghan border.
The title refers to the three reflections one encounters when approaching the work: from a distance of about four feet, an upside-down, warped view of the visual field; a step closer, a blown-up image of one's torso, along with a percussive echo; another step, a more conventional mirror image, albeit alarmingly close up.
Time is running out, a miracle is required to bring Champions League football to Anfield next season,but more alarmingly just how far behind being involved in the actual race for the title are we?
Although his hauteur is right on the money, his frozen expression and congealed snarl sometimes alarmingly suggest the most recent face of Sylvester Stallone.
In December, the New York Blood Center reported that its supply of blood had shrunk to alarmingly low levels.
Film star Brad Pitt came second with pop star Justin Timberlake coming third in the poll which alarmingly saw Jesus in 123rd place -alongside President George W Bush.
Alarmingly for the future of this magazine the architect may not be credited and, it seems, there are to be no reference images and photos.
Charles depicts the genetic engineers and the corporations who employ them as being insensitive to farming itself and sometimes alarmingly ignorant of its processes.
The amoral blitzkrieg has been amazingly and alarmingly effective.
She hung again, though much less alarmingly, when pipped in a five-furlong nursery last time.
But alarmingly for families whose income is at the bottom of the income scale their income dropped by more than 51 percent in the same time frame.
By the early 1980s, bluefin numbers had dropped alarmingly.
Everyone tossed off pirouettes, and Maya Thickenthighya, like Olga Supphozova in Paquita, did such alarmingly adequate fouettes that one feared a complete Swan Lake must be in the offing.