sur·​prise | \ sər-ˈprīz How to pronounce surprise (audio) , sə- \
variants: or less commonly surprize

Definition of surprise

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an attack made without warning
b : a taking unawares
2 : something that surprises
3 : the feeling caused by something unexpected or unusual


variants: or less commonly surprize
surprised also surprized; surprising also surprizing

Definition of surprise (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to attack unexpectedly also : to capture by an unexpected attack
2a : to take unawares Police surprised the burglars in the store.
b : to detect or elicit by a taking unawares … sometimes surprised a tragic shadow in her eyes.— Willa Cather
3 : to strike with wonder or amazement especially because unexpected His conduct surprised me.

intransitive verb

: to cause astonishment or surprise Her success didn't surprise.


geographical name
Sur·​prise | \ sər-ˈprīz How to pronounce Surprise (audio) \

Definition of Surprise (Entry 3 of 3)

city in south central Arizona west of Phoenix population 117,517

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Other Words from surprise


surpriser noun

Choose the Right Synonym for surprise


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 surprise in a Sentence

Noun What a pleasant surprise to see you! It's no surprise that he doesn't want to go. Is it any surprise that she should feel disappointed? The teacher sprang a surprise on us and gave a pop quiz. I have a special surprise for the children. The trip was a surprise for her birthday. Is the party a surprise? Imagine our surprise when they sold their house and moved to the Bahamas. He stared at her in surprise. Verb The results will surprise you. Nothing you could say would surprise me. They surprised everyone by moving to the Bahamas. A police officer surprised the burglars. The troops were surprised by an attack from the north.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That some people may be more reluctant to get vaccinated isn’t a surprise, officials and experts say. Los Angeles Times, "California’s secret weapon in COVID-19 success: We are not skeptical about the vaccine," 1 May 2021 The rocky start wasn’t a surprise to pitching coach Derek Johnson. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, "Derek Johnson on the Cincinnati Reds' pitching staff: 'It's going to be a process'," 29 Apr. 2021 Widener’s injury was a surprise; he was scheduled to start on Wednesday night and Smith was brought up from the alternate site to pitch in Widener’s place. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, "Diamondbacks’ injury list swells with additions of Calhoun, Widener," 28 Apr. 2021 Anteotokounmpo is also among the hustle leaders in a category that might be a surprise: contesting three point shots. Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Nickel: Look beyond the NBA's most familiar statistics. The Bucks are showing up with hustle.," 26 Apr. 2021 Many have speculated that Hopkins's win was a surprise to the producers of the Oscars ceremony, as well, given that the program, which has always ended with the awarding of Best Picture, ended on Best Actor this year. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, "Anthony Hopkins Paid Tribute to Chadwick Boseman in His Best Actor Acceptance Speech," 26 Apr. 2021 The fact that Marvel would resort to a character’s death to induce an emotional scene shouldn’t be a surprise either. Chris Smith, BGR, "This might be the biggest ‘Spider-Man 3’ spoiler yet, and we can’t believe it," 25 Apr. 2021 How the governor survived was a surprise even to his most ardent supporters. Dan Merica, CNN, "The political revival of Ralph Northam: How an ostracized governor became a progressive champion," 25 Apr. 2021 His making the Opening Day roster was a surprise and now looks like a mistake., "Even sitting atop AL East, Red Sox still have flaws to clean up," 24 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb What may surprise you though, is this bizarre accident has happened around here before. Rachel Trent, CNN, "Turtle crashes through a car's windshield, sending a woman to the hospital," 24 Apr. 2021 Mac Jones has provided memorable moments during his Alabama career, but the game that stands out to former offensive coordinator Stave Sarkisian may surprise you. Mark Heim |, al, "Steve Sarkisian reveals game Mac Jones earned his, team’s respect: ‘Always kind of stands out to me’," 23 Apr. 2021 And the most popular destinations among buyers may surprise you. Meena Thiruvengadam, Travel + Leisure, "Here’s Where Americans Are Buying Vacation Homes — and Some Destinations Might Surprise You," 22 Apr. 2021 Boy George is ready to give you a taste of who's onboard for his new biopic — and one of the names may surprise you. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Boy George Says Keanu Reeves May Be 'Popping In' for 'Karma Chameleon' Biopic," 21 Apr. 2021 The results may surprise you: Since November, thousands of K-12 students in Manteca — a diverse, low-income district — have been back on campus at least two days a week. Chronicle Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: April 8-14, 2021," 15 Apr. 2021 Some of the available travel vaccines may surprise you. Catherine Watson, Star Tribune, "Counterpoint: Vaccine passports? Yes, and they already exist.," 22 Mar. 2021 Fowler talked about how developing a close relationship with Morgan was one of his favorite experiences on the film, but in a reveal that may surprise no one at all, working with Morgan is indeed an experience. Anne Victoria Clark, Vulture, "Let Tracy Morgan DJ Everywhere He Goes Forever," 4 Mar. 2021 What's kept the fandom alive to get to this moment may not surprise you. Sly Sanchez,, "Wipeout is back! Why the return of the Big Balls 'was only a matter of time'," 2 Mar. 2021

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

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First Known Use of surprise


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for surprise


Middle English suppryse exaction, seizure, from Anglo-French sousprise, supprise, from feminine of supris, surpris, suspris, past participle of surprendre & susprendre to capture, take by surprise, from sur- & sus-, suz under + prendre to take — more at prize, sous-chef

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Time Traveler for surprise

Time Traveler

The first known use of surprise was in the 15th century

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Statistics for surprise

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for surprise



English Language Learners Definition of surprise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an unexpected event, piece of information, etc.
: an unexpected gift, party, etc.
: the feeling caused by something that is unexpected or unusual



English Language Learners Definition of surprise (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause (someone) to feel surprised
: to find, attack, or meet (someone or something) unexpectedly


sur·​prise | \ sər-ˈprīz How to pronounce surprise (audio) , sə-ˈprīz \

Kids Definition of surprise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that is unexpected I have a surprise for you.
2 : astonishment, amazement … it held up to them a little white object. They all looked at it in surprise— C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3 : an act or instance of coming upon without warning They were taken by surprise.


surprised; surprising

Kids Definition of surprise (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to cause to feel wonder or amazement because of being unexpected Her resemblance to her father surprised me.
2 : to come upon without warning The robbers were surprised by police.
3 : to attack without warning : capture by an unexpected attack

Choose the Right Synonym for surprise


surprise, astonish, and amaze mean to impress forcibly by being unexpected, startling, or unusual. surprise is used when something is unexpected even though it by itself is not startling. A sudden storm surprised the hikers. astonish means to surprise very much with something that is hard or impossible to believe. The first airplanes astonished people. amaze is used when something causes a person to wonder and puzzle over it. The magician amazed the children.



Legal Definition of surprise

1 : a condition or situation in which a party to a proceeding is unexpectedly placed without any fault or neglect of his or her own and that entitles the party to relief (as a new trial)
2 : an aspect of procedural unconscionability that consists of hiding a term of a contract in a mass of text

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