What does the idiom "on the alert" mean?

The phrase on the alert is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of on the alert.

Meaning of "on the alert"


The phrase "on the alert" means to be prepared for danger or to be watchful for any sign of danger. It is typically used to refer to a heightened awareness of one's surroundings, as when keeping an eye out for signs of trouble or being quick to respond to any warnings.


The phrase "on the alert" has its roots in the military, where it was used to refer to the heightened state of readiness for battle. It is likely derived from the Latin phrase alerte, which translates to "watchful" or "alert". This phrase has been in use since the late 17th century.


The phrase "on the alert" can be used in both a literal and figurative sense. In a literal sense, it implies being vigilant and watchful for danger or signs of danger. For example, someone might be on the alert for suspicious activities in their neighborhood. In a figurative sense, it implies being prepared for whatever may come one's way, whether it is a challenging situation or an opportunity. For example, a business might be on the alert for new trends in the market.

Example Sentences

  • I'm always on the alert when I'm walking home late at night.
  • The party was on the alert for any signs of trouble.
  • The company is always on the alert for any opportunities to expand their business.

The meanings of the words in the "on the alert" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


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