as·​ton·​ish ə-ˈstä-nish How to pronounce astonish (audio)
astonished; astonishing; astonishes

transitive verb

: to strike with sudden and usually great wonder or surprise
He was too astonished to speak
They were astonished by the vastness and majesty of the cathedral.
In retrospect, it astonishes me that we avoided a major quarrel for so long.Christopher Hitchens
obsolete : to strike with sudden fear
Choose the Right Synonym for astonish

surprise, astonish, astound, amaze, flabbergast mean to impress forcibly through unexpectedness.

surprise stresses causing an effect through being unexpected but not necessarily unusual or novel.

surprised to find them at home

astonish implies surprising so greatly as to seem incredible.

a discovery that astonished the world

astound stresses the shock of astonishment.

too astounded to respond

amaze suggests an effect of bewilderment.

amazed by the immense size of the place

flabbergast may suggest thorough astonishment and bewilderment or dismay.

flabbergasted by his angry refusal

Examples of astonish in a Sentence

Despite the hype, there was nothing in the book to astonish readers. The garden's beauty never fails to astonish.
Recent Examples on the Web The ongoing legal drama between the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance and Craig Wright in London has left onlookers astonished. Susie Violet Ward, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 We were astonished that such a thin vest was able to keep us warm for extended periods in 35 degree weather with only a hoodie underneath. Jessica MacDonald, Travel + Leisure, 29 Jan. 2024 In the end, Nuzzo and Horvath were astonished by how often patients agreed to be photographed, albeit with their faces concealed. Maggie Shannon, The New Yorker, 5 Feb. 2024 The war erupted at a time when in some respects Israel looked successful in ways that would have astonished the founding generation of 1948. Eliot A. Cohen, WSJ, 13 Dec. 2023 The special is a celebration of the countless Disney creators, telling the story behind the story that will astonish even the biggest Disney superfans, and viewers will be treated to an inside look at an all-new Disney attraction. Dave Quinn, Peoplemag, 8 Dec. 2023 On a trip to Pakistan, Dr. Kissinger evaded the traveling press corps by feigning illness and flew secretly to Beijing to secure the presidential invitation, which astonished the world when it was announced. Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2023 But Israeli officials and soldiers who have since been in the tunnels — as well as current and former American officials with experience in the region — say the scope, depth and quality of the tunnels built by Hamas have astonished them. Gal Koplewitz, New York Times, 16 Jan. 2024 Reagan — for all his weak spots — understood how to play hardball with the Kremlin and would be astonished at the blindness of his current GOP confreres. Trudy Rubin, Sun Sentinel, 2 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'astonish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


extension by -ish, transitive verbal suffix (as in accomplish, diminish) of astone, astonne, astony "to strike with surprise or fear, stun," going back to Middle English astonen, astonien "to stun, daze, surprise, astound," borrowed from Anglo-French astuner (attested once), estoner, estuner (also continental Old French estoner), going back to Vulgar Latin *extonāre, alteration, by substitution of the suffix ex- ex- entry 1, of Latin attonāre "to strike with lightning, drive crazy" (past participle attonitus "struck with lightning, stupefied, dumbfounded"), from at- ad- + tonāre "to thunder" — more at thunder entry 1

First Known Use

circa 1534, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of astonish was circa 1534

Dictionary Entries Near astonish

Cite this Entry

“Astonish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


as·​ton·​ish ə-ˈstän-ish How to pronounce astonish (audio)
: to strike with sudden wonder or surprise

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