to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness: Her beauty surprised me.
to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly: We surprised the children raiding the cookie jar.
to make an unexpected assault on (an unprepared army, fort, person, etc.).
to elicit or bring out suddenly and without warning: to surprise the facts from the witness.
to lead or bring unawares, as into doing something not intended: to surprise a witness into telling the truth.
an act or instance of surprising or being surprised.
something that surprises someone; a completely unexpected occurrence, appearance, or statement: His announcement was a surprise to all.
an assault, as on an army or a fort, made without warning.
a coming upon unexpectedly; detecting in the act; taking unawares.
Idioms about surprise
take by surprise,
to come upon unawares.
to astonish; amaze: The amount of the donation took us completely by surprise.
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.
- 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use surprise in a sentence
That his extracurricular activity as a vaccine appointment coordinator was going on during school hours came as a surprise to his mother.My mother and her friends couldn’t get coronavirus vaccine appointments, so they turned to a stranger for help. He’s 13. | Greg Harris | February 12, 2021 | Washington Post
By the end, their perception of cold had lessened—no surprise to anyone who has noticed how the same temperature that felt miserably cold for a run in November can feel delightfully warm in March.
No surprise here, since the latter was loosely based on our minds.This ‘Quantum Brain’ Would Mimic Our Own to Speed Up AI | Shelly Fan | February 9, 2021 | Singularity Hub
It shouldn’t come as a surprise as more consumers expecting their favorite brands’ values to align with their own.Marketing Briefing: How the Super Bowl represents a return to normalcy that’s yet to become reality | Kristina Monllos | February 9, 2021 | Digiday
Among the many surprises of the past year, it turns out that one tiny squirrel can provide tremendous solace.How a sickly squirrel offered me unexpected comfort | Pam Spritzer | February 8, 2021 | Washington Post
That Stone would slander the democratic, pro-Western, EuroMaidan revolution as a CIA coup is no surprise.
His surprise marriage to theater director Sophie Hunter may have broken hearts, but the squeals of delight were even louder.All Your Internet Boyfriends Are Taken: Gosling, Cumberbatch, and now Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Melissa Leon | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
The news came as a surprise even to fans of Gordon-Levitt, who was only photographed with McCauley for the first time last May.All Your Internet Boyfriends Are Taken: Gosling, Cumberbatch, and now Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Melissa Leon | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
Postscript Of all the interviews I did Lee Marvin was by far the biggest surprise.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile | Robert Ward | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
To my own surprise, last year I started a book club, which includes writers, editors and an agent.Daphne Merkin on Lena Dunham, Book Criticism, and Self-Examination | Mindy Farabee | December 26, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
I was busy loading the piece when an exclamation of surprise from one of the men made me look up.
A flash of surprise and pleasure lit the fine eyes of the haughty beauty perched up there on the palace wall.The Red Year | Louis Tracy
Great was the surprise of Alf at the honour and labour thus thrust upon him, but he did not shrink from it.The Giant of the North | R.M. Ballantyne
Vague murmurs of doubt and surprise reached the ears of two of the British magistrates.The Red Year | Louis Tracy
To Harry's surprise, the soldier detailed to go with him proved to be a boy, not much older than himself.The Courier of the Ozarks | Byron A. Dunn
British Dictionary definitions for surprise
to cause to feel amazement or wonder
to encounter or discover unexpectedly or suddenly
to capture or assault suddenly and without warning
to present with something unexpected, such as a gift
(foll by into) to provoke (someone) to unintended action by a trick, etc: to surprise a person into an indiscretion
(often foll by from) to elicit by unexpected behaviour or by a trick: to surprise information from a prisoner
the act or an instance of surprising; the act of taking unawares
a sudden or unexpected event, gift, etc
the feeling or condition of being surprised; astonishment
(modifier) causing, characterized by, or relying upon surprise: a surprise move
take by surprise
to come upon suddenly and without warning
to capture unexpectedly or catch unprepared
to astonish; amaze
- 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.