• synonyms


See more synonyms for startle on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), star·tled, star·tling.
  1. to disturb or agitate suddenly as by surprise or alarm.
  2. to cause to start involuntarily, by or as by a sudden shock.
Show More
verb (used without object), star·tled, star·tling.
  1. to start involuntarily, as from a shock of surprise or alarm.
Show More
  1. a sudden shock of surprise, alarm, or the like.
  2. something that startles.
Show More

Origin of startle

before 1100; Middle English stertlen to rush, caper, equivalent to stert(en) to start + -(e)len -le, or continuing Old English steartlian to kick, struggle
Related formsstar·tle·ment, nounstar·tler, nounout·star·tle, verb (used with object), out·star·tled, out·star·tling.un·star·tled, adjective


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for startle

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I expect to learn something that will startle the Director of Police.

  • The desire had been strong enough to startle him, to warn him.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • If the old man made no will, I'll maybe have summat to say as may startle them a gay bit.

  • 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

    John Galsworthy

British Dictionary definitions for startle


  1. to be or cause to be surprised or frightened, esp so as to start involuntarily
Show More
Derived Formsstartler, noun

Word Origin

Old English steartlian to stumble; related to Middle High German starzen to strut, Norwegian sterta to strain oneself
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper