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


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.

Examples of surprise in a Sentence


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.


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

One of the biggest early surprises of the college football season is how explosive Maryland's offense looks under Mike Locksley, who brought over both scheme and practice habits from his time at Alabama. Ross Dellenger,, "Using His Alabama Lessons, Mike Locksley Already Has Maryland's Offense Humming," 9 Sep. 2019 The biggest surprise here is Van Noy, who wasn’t on the injury report all week. Globe Staff,, "Patriots roll over the Steelers, 33-3, to start season with a bang," 8 Sep. 2019 The portions of The Testaments that will likely come as the biggest surprise to readers are those narrated by Aunt Lydia. Seija Rankin,, "The Testaments," 8 Sep. 2019 Biggest surprise to me is how good defensive coordinator Andy Avalos looks. John Canzano | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Canzano: 10 opinions on the Oregon Ducks’ victory over Nevada," 8 Sep. 2019 For me, the surprise of the night was the police presence. Willie Brown,, "Time to help SF’s homeless — and time to get tough if they won’t take it," 7 Sep. 2019 What’s the biggest surprise for you from the Broncos cuts? Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos Mailbag: Is general manager John Elway done wheeling and dealing?," 4 Sep. 2019 Perhaps the biggest surprise from Saturday’s game wasn’t that the offense put up 56 points by halftime — the most ever by a Maryland team in any half — but that the defense seemed relentless throughout. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "Maryland won’t revel in opening-game rout of Howard as matchup with No. 21 Syracuse looms," 3 Sep. 2019 The surprise from men is usually in response to my willingness to give up my last name. Sean Wellington, Essence, "Why I (Proudly) Took My Wife’s Last Name When We Got Married," 30 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Experts who have been watching Kebnekaise’s glacier melt are not surprised by the recent measurements. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Climate Change Has Shrunk Sweden’s Highest Peak," 10 Sep. 2019 Following a 14-1 season in 2017, Half Moon Bay coach Keith Holden wasn’t surprised by last year’s rebuilding 3-7 season. Mitch Stephens,, "9 TD passes were needed for Miramonte to win crazy game," 9 Sep. 2019 Voth is no slouch and this could surprise Saturday night. Chris Wassel, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves odds, predictions, picks and best bets," 7 Sep. 2019 While Work was at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, in 2013, he and his colleagues were surprised by the outcome of some classified Pentagon simulations of theoretical conflicts with China or Russia. The Atlantic, "Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill," 3 Sep. 2019 This created an awkward moment for Trump, who was reportedly surprised by Zarif's appearance. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for August 26: G7 Summit, 2020 race, Amazon, military suicides, slavery," 26 Aug. 2019 Nelson told Ars he was surprised by HackerOne’s response. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Valve says turning away researcher reporting Steam vulnerability was a mistake," 22 Aug. 2019 Cain says he has been pleasantly surprised by the play of redshirt freshman Mike Matus, who has been getting a lot of time with the first-team defense, especially with some of the others still limited. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU football happy to have 6 healthy defensive linemen," 14 Aug. 2019 Peter Anthony Gallo, an international lawyer and former investigator for the UN’s own watchdog, the OIOS, told Fox News that he was not surprised by the allegations. Ben Evansky, Fox News, "UN Palestinian refugee agency reels over allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism," 4 Aug. 2019

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

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Statistics for surprise

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for surprise

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

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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



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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Comments on surprise

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


agony, or difficult or painful work

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