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 But Parker said Martin’s out-of-position performance - a wide receiver forced to play tailback for the first time in high school - in the second half was a most pleasant surprise. Tom Lang, Detroit Free Press, "River Rouge gets a few unexpected contributions in win over Detroit King in regional final," 9 Jan. 2021 The photos may come as a pleasant surprise to fans, since McCain told fans not to expect to see any photos of baby Liberty anytime soon. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Meghan McCain shares first photo of 3-month-old daughter Liberty: 'Someone wanted to see me?'," 4 Jan. 2021 This matchup would not have been a tremendous surprise last summer — the teams were ranked No. 2 and 3 at the start of the season — but the Buckeyes’ presence in the playoff is particularly fitting. New York Times, "Alabama and Ohio State Reach the National Title Game With Runaway Wins," 1 Jan. 2021 Royal fans were treated to a surprise near the end of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's first episode of their new podcast. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Does Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Son Archie Have an American Accent?," 31 Dec. 2020 The partners didn’t say that researchers administered a lower initial dose to some subjects as a result of discrepancies in measuring vaccine concentration, making the lower dose a surprise. Jenny Strasburg, WSJ, "AstraZeneca and Oxford’s Bumpy Partnership Hangs Over Covid Vaccine’s Future," 31 Dec. 2020 Developer Artemio De La Vega said that the tower was an unexpected surprise that united Dallas. Nataly Keomoungkhoun, Dallas News, "In a year of negative news, ‘Leaning Tower of Dallas’ tilted toward the positive," 30 Dec. 2020 Our recent numbers don’t exactly make continued restrictions a big surprise. Nita Lelyveld, Los Angeles Times, "Essential California: Settle in at home," 30 Dec. 2020 To those who have studied Gingrich's career, the recent political stances come as little surprise. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, "Newt Gingrich: Democrats will 'brainwash the entire next generation if they can get away with it'," 29 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Yet Neuheisel is convinced that the player who led the AAF in touchdown passes (14) and excelled in the run-pass-option scheme at Wake Forest is going to surprise people. Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times, "Rick Neuheisel, who coached John Wolford, swears backup QB will be hero for Rams," 28 Dec. 2020 Over the last two games, Darnold has elevated a Jets team with little talent at the skill positions to surprise victories over teams currently in the playoff picture. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "NFL Week 16 winners and losers: Is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers running away in MVP race?," 28 Dec. 2020 Invest in a classic like Angel by Mugler, or try something more out of your comfort zone, such as Aydry & Co.'s Japanese Yuzu Scented Candle, to surprise your senses. Sarah Han, Allure, "12 After-Christmas Beauty Deals at Nordstrom," 26 Dec. 2020 And Washington and his 2,400 soldiers would cross at McConkey’s and Johnson’s ferries, roughly 10 miles north of Trenton and would then march down to Trenton to surprise the garrison at dawn. James Freeman, WSJ, "Christmases Past and Future," 24 Dec. 2020 Without thinking, Biddle raced downstairs and flew open her home’s door into the garage, just in time to surprise the stranger stepping onto her property. Megan Cassidy,, "‘Cops can’t do this by themselves’: With home burglaries surging, S.F. neighbors band together," 24 Dec. 2020 On Monday, the 52-year-old actor teamed up with the Los Angeles Dodgers catcher, 25, to surprise a young fan on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air star's Snapchat Series, Will From Home. Nicholas Rice,, "Will Smith Connects with Los Angeles Dodgers Catcher Will Smith to Surprise a Young Fan," 22 Dec. 2020 Three Michigan toddlers and their mothers, a former Detroit schoolteacher seeking to surprise her family for Christmas, local Army veterans, teens and executives were onboard when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded Dec. 21, 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "’88 Lockerbie bombing: 16 Michigan victims remembered, new charges unveiled," 22 Dec. 2020 Putting an end to surprise billing practices is one of the few issues that lawmakers from both parties support. Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner, "Congress poised to pass major bipartisan healthcare reform," 21 Dec. 2020

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

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for surprise


How to pronounce Surprise (audio)

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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