- to disturb or agitate suddenly as by surprise or alarm.
- to cause to start involuntarily, by or as by a sudden shock.
- to start involuntarily, as from a shock of surprise or alarm.
- a sudden shock of surprise, alarm, or the like.
- something that startles.
Origin of startle
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for startle
I expect to learn something that will startle the Director of Police.Jennie Baxter, Journalist
The desire had been strong enough to startle him, to warn him.A Spirit in Prison
If the old man made no will, I'll maybe have summat to say as may startle them a gay bit.The Shadow of a Crime
It did not startle him; indeed, he was in a mood when nothing could have caused him wonder.Tales From Two Hemispheres
Hjalmar Hjorth Boysen
On a question so vast and vital you are bound to startle by any little measure.Another Sheaf
- to be or cause to be surprised or frightened, esp so as to start involuntarily
Word Origin and History for startle
c.1300, "run to and fro," frequentative of sterten (see start (v.)). Sense of "move suddenly in surprise or fear" first recorded 1520s. Transitive meaning "frighten suddenly" is from 1590s. The word retains more of the original meaning of start (v.). Related: Startled; startling.