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

Definition of surprise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 2)

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.

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But apparently this ruling was not a [00:26:00] surprise to hock. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 23 May 2022 No surprise, then, that the legacy media companies leaned hard into their sports offerings. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 23 May 2022 Zalatoris shines on green American Will Zalatoris, who doesn't have a single PGA Tour victory in his career, let alone a major, may be the early surprise of the PGA Championship. USA TODAY, 20 May 2022 Cervical pillows are — no surprise — designed to support the cervical spine, also known as your neck. Angela Haupt, Washington Post, 20 May 2022 No surprise there, as the sunny destination is also in the middle of a major milestone year: Walt Disney World is celebrating 50. Alesandra Dubin, Woman's Day, 19 May 2022 The surprise at the park that day, in my case, was a silhouette of my 5-year-old head drawn by a real Disney animator, which my mom proudly displayed in our home, and probably still has (somewhere). Mark Gauert, Sun Sentinel, 18 May 2022 Her son definitely wanted to play a big role in the surprise. Antonia Debianchi,, 16 May 2022 The biggest surprise among last week’s network cancellations was Magnum P.I., which CBS cut after four seasons despite the show ranking in the top 25 entertainment programs in total viewers. Rick Porter, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Hey, maybe Kelly might surprise us with multiple albums of her covers! Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 26 May 2022 Members of their families were there to surprise them after the proposal. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, 4 Apr. 2022 One of the easiest bills to cut down might surprise you: Your car insurance. The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Jan. 2022 What did surprise them, however, was the plants grown from the Apollo 11 samples were not as robust as the other two sets. Joe Mario Pedersen, Orlando Sentinel, 14 May 2022 The decision is likely to frustrate, but not surprise, the oil and gas industry. Anna Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, 12 May 2022 To spark your own curiosity, here are more than 100 fun facts that will entertain and surprise. Olivia Muenter, Woman's Day, 12 May 2022 Scientists and public health experts said the 100 million estimate -- based on mathematical models -- does not surprise them and that as immunity wanes and people move indoors due to cold weather, cases will inevitably rise. Bymary Kekatos, ABC News, 9 May 2022 In addition to free comics, there will be sales and surprise guests throughout the day. Mike Rose, cleveland, 3 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

27 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for surprise


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

Surprise geographical name

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

Definition of Surprise

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

More from Merriam-Webster on surprise

Nglish: Translation of surprise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of surprise for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about surprise


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