[stahrt-ling, stahr-tl-ing]


creating sudden alarm, surprise, or wonder; astonishing.

Origin of startling

Related formsstar·tling·ly, adverbun·star·tling, adjective



verb (used with object), star·tled, star·tling.

to disturb or agitate suddenly as by surprise or alarm.
to cause to start involuntarily, by or as by a sudden shock.

verb (used without object), star·tled, star·tling.

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

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

Synonyms for startle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for startling

astonishing, alarming, shocking, unexpected, surprising

Examples from the Web for startling

Contemporary Examples of startling

Historical Examples of startling

  • But this was not so startling as what it showed in the foreground.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • Grace and a miracle had made the startling fact palpable and evident.

  • Now, without warning, a startling transformation was wrought.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • At the dread word, a startling change was wrought in the girl.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • This is a startling statement, but it is fully warranted by the facts.

    Flying Machines

    W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell

British Dictionary definitions for startling



causing surprise or fear; striking; astonishing
Derived Formsstartlingly, adverb



to be or cause to be surprised or frightened, esp so as to start involuntarily
Derived Formsstartler, noun

Word Origin for startle

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 startling



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper