[ ser-prahyz, suh- ]
See synonyms for: surprisesurprisedsurprisessurprising on

verb (used with object),sur·prised, sur·pris·ing.
  1. to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness: Her beauty surprised me.

  2. to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly: We surprised the children raiding the cookie jar.

  1. to make an unexpected assault on (an unprepared army, fort, person, etc.).

  2. to elicit or bring out suddenly and without warning: to surprise the facts from the witness.

  3. to lead or bring unawares, as into doing something not intended: to surprise a witness into telling the truth.

  1. an act or instance of surprising or being surprised.

  2. something that surprises someone; a completely unexpected occurrence, appearance, or statement: His announcement was a surprise to all.

  1. an assault, as on an army or a fort, made without warning.

  2. a coming upon unexpectedly; detecting in the act; taking unawares.

Idioms about surprise

  1. take by surprise,

    • to come upon unawares.

    • to astonish; amaze: The amount of the donation took us completely by surprise.

Origin of surprise

First recorded in 1425–75; (noun) late Middle English, from Anglo-French surpris(e), Middle French, past participle of surprendre, equivalent to sur- sur-1 + pris (masculine), prise (feminine), from Latin prēnsus, -sa, equivalent to prēndere, contracted variant of prehendere “to take” (see prehension) + -tus, -ta past participle suffix; (verb) late Middle English surprisen, from Anglo-French surpris(e) (past participle), Middle French, as above

synonym study For surprise

1. Surprise, astonish, amaze, astound mean to strike with wonder because of unexpectedness, strangeness, unusualness, etc. To surprise is to take unawares or to affect with wonder: surprised at receiving a telegram. To astonish is to strike with wonder by something unlooked for, startling, or seemingly inexplicable: astonished at someone's behavior. To amaze is to astonish so greatly as to disconcert or bewilder: amazed at such an evidence of stupidity. To astound is to so overwhelm with surprise that one is unable to think or act: astounded by the news.

word story For surprise

The English noun surprise comes from late Middle English, from Anglo-French and Middle French surprise(e), a noun use of the past participle of surprendre “to seize, grasp,” literally, “to overtake," from the French prefix sur- “excessive, over-,” and the verb prendre “to take.”
The original 15th-century meaning of the English noun was “an unexpected or sudden attack without warning” (a surprise attack, therefore, was a redundancy). In the 19th century, the term surprise party came into use with two disparate senses: the earlier one was “a body of soldiers prepared to make a sudden, stealthy attack,” which held close to the original sense of surprise; the second, slightly later one was “a party or celebration planned for someone as a surprise,” which of course has survived as the meaning familiar to us today.

Other words from surprise

  • sur·pris·ed·ly [ser-prahy-zid-lee, -prahyzd-, suh-], /sərˈpraɪ zɪd li, -ˈpraɪzd-, sə-/, adverb
  • sur·pris·er, noun
  • su·per·sur·prise, noun
  • un·sur·prised, adjective

Words Nearby surprise Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use surprise in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for surprise


/ (səˈpraɪz) /

  1. to cause to feel amazement or wonder

  2. to encounter or discover unexpectedly or suddenly

  1. to capture or assault suddenly and without warning

  2. to present with something unexpected, such as a gift

  3. (foll by into) to provoke (someone) to unintended action by a trick, etc: to surprise a person into an indiscretion

  4. (often foll by from) to elicit by unexpected behaviour or by a trick: to surprise information from a prisoner

  1. the act or an instance of surprising; the act of taking unawares

  2. a sudden or unexpected event, gift, etc

  1. the feeling or condition of being surprised; astonishment

  2. (modifier) causing, characterized by, or relying upon surprise: a surprise move

  3. take by surprise

    • to come upon suddenly and without warning

    • to capture unexpectedly or catch unprepared

    • to astonish; amaze

Origin of surprise

C15: from Old French, from surprendre to overtake, from sur- 1 + prendre from Latin prehendere to grasp; see prehensile

Derived forms of surprise

  • surprisal, noun
  • surprised, adjective
  • surprisedly (səˈpraɪzɪdlɪ), adverb
  • surpriser, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with surprise


see take by surprise.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.