star·​tling | \ ˈstärt-liŋ How to pronounce startling (audio) , ˈstär-tᵊl-iŋ \

Definition of startling

: causing momentary fright, surprise, or astonishment a startling discovery

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from startling

startlingly adverb

Examples of startling in a Sentence

Startling new evidence came to light during the trial. He made a startling discovery. It is a city of startling contrasts.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Tatis’ 14-year contract also surfaced many greater truths and myths about the game, the deal’s terms startling but its overall impact a relative blip in an $11 billion industry. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Fernando Tatis Jr.'s $340 million deal shows risk is minimal, rewards abundant in baseball," 18 Feb. 2021 The changes in availability of critical care beds can be sudden and startling. Nanette Asimov,, "The Bay Area nears critical shortage of ICU beds, with Santa Clara County at 8% of capacity," 10 Dec. 2020 By turns startling and mordantly funny, this book traces the rise and fall of the co-working startup WeWork and of Adam Neumann, one of its founders. The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 7 Dec. 2020 The result, though full of startling and sensational pleasures, can have an eerie familiarity for urban viewers under late capitalism. Lidija Haas, The New Republic, "Wong Kar-wai’s Masterpieces of Political Uncertainty," 2 Dec. 2020 New scientific research shows measurable and sometimes startling change, much of it from saltwater’s unseen advance beneath the surface. Bill Lambrecht,, "Saltwater invasion: Driven by rising seas, the threats to drinking water, crops from saltwater are growing in Maryland and elsewhere in the U.S.," 1 Dec. 2020 The nurse’s video offers a startling and rare glimpse of a front-line health-care worker blatantly downplaying a virus that has killed at least 266,000 Americans. Washington Post, "An Oregon nurse bragged on TikTok about not wearing a mask outside of work. She’s now on administrative leave.," 30 Nov. 2020 New scientific research along the East Coast and in California shows measurable and sometimes startling change, much of it from saltwater's unseen advance beneath the surface. Star Tribune, "Coastal harm from invading saltwater 'happening right now'," 23 Nov. 2020 Yet it can also be found on houses or even in them—a small but startling sight, given the fur and eyes. Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, "Bizarre Bugs Found in Big City Show Nature’s Weirdness Is Everywhere," 28 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'startling.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of startling

1609, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about startling

Time Traveler for startling

Time Traveler

The first known use of startling was in 1609

See more words from the same year

Statistics for startling

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Startling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for startling



English Language Learners Definition of startling

: very surprising, shocking, or frightening



Kids Definition of startling

: causing a moment of fright or surprise a startling noise a startling discovery

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on startling

What made you want to look up startling? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!