emergency

When there's an emergency, the stakes are high and you may need to act quickly. There's a tornado! Someone's collapsed! The cat's stuck in a tree! It's an emergency! Call 911!

You can see the word emerge in emergency, and an emergency suddenly emerges — it happens all of a sudden and can take you by surprise. Governments declare a "state of emergency" if there is a disaster that they can't handle, and they need support. If you hear sirens and see flashing lights, there's probably an emergency . . . unless you're in a dance club.

Primary Meanings of emergency

1.
n
a sudden unforeseen crisis (usually involving danger) that requires immediate action
2.
n
a state in which martial law applies
3.
n
a brake operated by hand; usually operates by mechanical linkage
Full Definitions of emergency
1

n a sudden unforeseen crisis (usually involving danger) that requires immediate action

“he never knew what to do in an emergency
Synonyms:
exigency, pinch
Type of:
crisis
a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something
2

n a state in which martial law applies

“the governor declared a state of emergency
Type of:
temporary state
a state that continues for a limited time
3

n a brake operated by hand; usually operates by mechanical linkage

Synonyms:
emergency brake, hand brake, parking brake
Type of:
brake
a restraint used to slow or stop a vehicle

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.