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

The surprise duet followed Ma’s playing of all Bach’s cello suites in a single concert (see review, below), as part of an initiative the legendary cellist — and Berkshires resident — calls the Bach Project. Isaac Feldberg,, "James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma share stage at Tanglewood," 12 Aug. 2019 Singing chef Tito Gomez is full of surprises on karaoke Fridays at this bar near Indianapolis Motor Speedway Jenna Watson, The family-friendly Fall Creek Place restaurant is from the owners of Mass Ave. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "Burgers, milkshakes and fried chicken. This is when Baby’s diner opens at Fall Creek Place," 12 Aug. 2019 Sanders has added seasoned staffers to his team and maintains tens of thousands of volunteers and a strong grassroots network of activists who helped him pull off a surprise near-tie in the 2016 caucuses. Thomas Beaumont,, "Elizabeth Warren’s warm welcome at Iowa State Fair a warning to other Democrats running for president: ‘Her campaign is hot’," 12 Aug. 2019 Google, Tesla, Amazon and other tech companies are continuing to hide quirky (and nerdy) software surprises — known as Easter eggs — in their products, just for laughs. Charlotte Cowles, New York Times, "A Financier’s End, and Uber Hits the Skids," 11 Aug. 2019 To no one’s surprise, the fees have long been identified as among the major causes of California’s high cost of housing, which increasingly is becoming out of reach for middle-income residents. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Plan emerges to shift major housing costs to the state," 11 Aug. 2019 Jeffrey Epstein’s surprise death Saturday in a New York jail casts uncertainty into the management of the considerable assets the wealthy financier left behind. Andrew Boryga,, "Jeffrey Epstein is dead, but it could take years to unravel his vast estate," 10 Aug. 2019 Unpleasant surprises On July 25, an asteroid estimated at up to 450 feet across unexpectedly buzzed Earth at a distance of 40,000 miles, becoming the largest asteroid to come that close in a century. NBC News, "Huge asteroid misses Earth but spotlights threat posed by space rocks," 10 Aug. 2019 Volcanoes that are considered dormant rarely have any monitoring, despite surprises like the 2008 eruption of the Chaitén volcano in Chile after 8,000 years of inactivity. Jackie Snow, National Geographic, "Volcano forecasts could soon be a reality, thanks to AI," 9 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

People close to Epstein were surprised by reports about the nature of his death, according to an individual familiar with their discussions. Anchorage Daily News, "What’s known and what’s next after Jeffrey Epstein’s death," 11 Aug. 2019 That’s the reason why this moment doesn’t surprise me. Ale Russian,, "Oprah Winfrey Says BFF Gayle King Has ‘Always Felt Not a Shadow But the Light’ from Her Success," 7 Aug. 2019 And this past weekend, his family was surprised with a cottage-style home that was built in 96 hours by more than 1,000 people in the California city. Selena Barrientos, House Beautiful, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," 7 Aug. 2019 Berl, a lifelong confidant, was not surprised at this attempt at reinvention. James Mcauley, Town & Country, "The Haunting of Paris: Georges Mandel and the Long Legacy of Nazi Violence," 6 Aug. 2019 Bolin wasn't surprised Meyer took to Harvey quickly. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Jack Harvey's quiet role in helping build Meyer Shank into exciting young team," 26 July 2019 That the eagle watchers on the wharf looked comfortable in less bulky attire didn’t surprise her. Elizabeth Poliner,, "2019 Algren Awards: Finalist: Sabelle," 20 July 2019 Kristina Horback, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis, isn’t surprised at all by the findings. Natasha Daly, National Geographic, "Goats can perceive each other’s emotions from their voices," 15 July 2019 And we were pleasantly surprised by the torque provided by its 15-amp motor. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Budget-Friendly Circular Saws for Summer Construction," 9 July 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

15 Aug 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).


a period when something is suspended

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