Alarm vs Timer

Alarm vs Timer - What's the Difference?

Updated: December 9, 2020

Are alarms and timers different? For most people, they're one and the same. After all, they fulfill the same function. You set an alarm or a timer, and they help to remind you of important tasks, like, for example, waking up at your preferred time. However, while most of us don't really think that there's a difference between these two, they're actually not the same.

Defining an Alarm vs a Timer

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a timer is "a device that starts or stops something at a set time or that makes a sound after a particular amount of time has passed".

On the other hand, the same dictionary states that an alarm is a "warning of danger, usually a loud noise or a flashing light". Furthermore, it also defines an alarm clock as a "clock that you can set to wake you up at a particular time with a loud noise".

So, what's the difference? If you go by the definition, an alarm or an alarm clock is something you set to make a loud noise at a specified time. Meanwhile, a timer is a device that starts after setting the time and then stops and makes noise after a specific amount of time has already passed.

Difference Between an Alarm and a Timer

For one, when using an alarm clock, you have to calculate how much time you'll need before you're interrupted by the alarm. So, if you have to set an alarm for two hours from now, you'll have to perform an admittedly basic calculation of what time it'll be two hours from now when you want to be interrupted by the beeping noise.

This is less convenient compared to using a timer. It is because all you have to do is to input the amount of time that you need before you're reminded via a beeping noise or an alarm.

For example, it's 8:00 AM now, and you need to be reminded to do something important in 2 hours. That means that you have to set an alarm for 10:00 AM. On the other hand, using a timer, all you have to do is set the timer for two hours from 8:00 AM, and it will interrupt you once two hours have passed.

So, while alarms or alarm clocks and timers have very similar functions, each one is different and offers distinct advantages over the other depending on the application.