adjective sud·den \ ˈsə-dᵊn \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of sudden

1 a : happening or coming unexpectedly
  • a sudden shower
b : changing angle or character all at once
  • a sudden drop in the ocean bottom
2 : marked by or manifesting abruptness or haste
  • a sudden departure
3 : made or brought about in a short time : prompt




play \ˈsə-dᵊn-(n)əs\ noun

Examples of sudden in a Sentence

  1. a sudden change in temperature

  2. Sudden fame can be difficult to deal with.

  3. She had a sudden urge to be outside.

  4. His death was very sudden.

  5. a sudden turn in the road

  6. I was surprised by her sudden decision to quit.

  7. The director's sudden departure leaves the organization's future uncertain.

Recent Examples of sudden from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of sudden

Middle English sodain, from Anglo-French sudain, from Latin subitaneus, from subitus sudden, from past participle of subire to come up, from sub- up + ire to go — more at sub-, 1issue

Synonym Discussion of sudden

precipitate, headlong, abrupt, impetuous, sudden mean showing undue haste or unexpectedness. precipitate stresses lack of due deliberation and implies prematureness of action.
    • the army's precipitate withdrawal
headlong stresses rashness and lack of forethought.
    • a headlong flight from arrest
abrupt stresses curtness and a lack of warning or ceremony.
    • an abrupt refusal
impetuous stresses extreme impatience or impulsiveness.
    • an impetuous lover proposing marriage
sudden stresses unexpectedness and sharpness or violence of action.
    • flew into a sudden rage




Definition of sudden

: an unexpected occurrence : emergency
all of a sudden or less commonly on a sudden
: sooner than was expected : at once

First Known Use of sudden


in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

SUDDEN Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of sudden for English Language Learners

  • : happening, coming, or done very quickly in a way that is usually not expected

SUDDEN Defined for Kids


adjective sud·den \ ˈsə-dᵊn \

Definition of sudden for Students

1 : happening or coming quickly and unexpectedly
  • … she was startled by a sudden outburst of noise.
  • —Robert C. O'Brien, Rats of NIMH
2 : met with unexpectedly
  • We came to a sudden turn in the road.
3 : hasty 2
  • He made a sudden decision.




all of a sudden
: sooner than was expected : suddenly
  • All of a sudden I saw him.

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


resembling the blue of the sky

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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