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

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. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. 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

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 ?
They also plan to raise concerns about air quality, landfill gas violations, dust and alarmingly high rates of asthma in the area.
With the number of power outages caused by metallic balloons rising sharply in California in recent years and spiking alarmingly in February, Southern California Edison (SCE) is urging customers to take seriously a call by the utility to secure metallic balloons this Valentine's Day as well as the rest of the year.
But with that came an alarmingly low total of four rebounds for Shaquille O'Neal, an output that didn't escape Jackson's attention.
However, only eight percent -- an alarmingly low number -- have completed ten basic steps for retirement preparation.
Margaret Pontius, director of the Guadalupe Center in Canoga Park, said the number of families coming there for food has been increasing alarmingly.
Companies need to know that their IM management system is continuously kept up-to-date with the latest protective policies to insulate them from attacks, which are now increasing at an alarmingly high rate as IM becomes the target of choice for the developers of viruses, worms and other malicious content.
This brings him in contact with the film's most amusing character, Vincent D'Onofrio's Pooh-Bear, a desert-dwelling psycho-bubba with a plastic nose and an alarmingly inquisitive badger.
Alarmingly, more than 20,000 Americans, nearly 20% of all new cases, will die from skin cancer in 2004 (www.
Aside from the fairly straightforward maternity sharing plans, these proposals carry the potential to riddle firms with uncertainty as they are alarmingly intricate.
Summary: Death rates at 19 NHS hospital trusts in England were alarmingly high last year, according to an influential report.
Summary: Madrid - The Spanish popular party (PP-opposition) is alarmingly mistaken in its approach towards Morocco and the Sahara issue, said Luis Maria Anson, member of the Spanish Royal Academy, noting that the party has overstepped the boundaries of political common sense.
Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said: "There is an alarmingly high and dangerous level of dirty streets and pavements in far too many places.
But GMB general secretary Paul Kenny told the union's annual conference in Southport: "There is an alarmingly high and dangerous level of dirty streets in far too many of the 345 councils.
It's up alarmingly and we have been tracking it very closely," Bratton said.
Alarmingly, there may be no sector of society where technology has had less impact.