sur·prise | \sər-ˈprīz, 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 \

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

Horney says Matthew’s violence took everyone by surprise. Harriet Sokmensuer,, "Murder Victim Pleaded with Husband to Get Therapy Before He Killed Her and Their 3 Kids," 12 July 2018 His appointment to Harding Racing’s No. 88 car at Toronto caught many by surprise, including Daly himself, but the key for him this weekend will be to keep the opportunity in perspective. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "IndyCar in Toronto: 'Eh Team' returns home; Conor Daly returns to field," 12 July 2018 The pointed exchange with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg seemed to catch those in the room — including the Americans — by surprise for its provocativeness. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Trump goes ‘madman’ on our allies, with swipe at Germany," 11 July 2018 The policy shift eventually requiring indigenous peoples’ consent to operate all fish farms took farmers by surprise, Hall said, and the industry is still reviewing it. Anchorage Daily News, "Audit finds 70 percent of British Columbia fish-processing plants do not comply with environmental regulations," 8 July 2018 Depay's incredible form in Lyon has caught a number of fans by surprise following an underwhelming two-year spell at Manchester United., "Lyon Star Memphis Depay to Be Fined After Skipping Training Amid Links With Milan," 4 July 2018 The speed at which Trump’s family separation policy morphed from problem to crisis clearly took the White House and GOP leaders by surprise. David Lauter,, "Faced with a political crisis, Trump blinks, but the crisis isn't close to being over," 22 June 2018 But the directive seemed to take defense officials by surprise. The Christian Science Monitor, "Trump announces plans for a new military branch: 'Space Force'," 19 June 2018 Of course, diehard fans know rumors of a Bey and Jay collaboration have been swirling for a while, but Everything Is Love still caught many by surprise. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Beyoncé and Jay Z's Album Everything Is Love Is Now Streaming Pretty Much Everywhere," 18 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That’s nothing new nor should anyone be surprised that farmers keep pushing forward, ignoring challenges that would derail lesser people and lesser business operations. The Aegis, "Roller coaster ride [Editorial]," 13 July 2018 At a concert in the town of Salt, 15 miles west of Amman, a performance this year by Bait al Nay spurred young members of the audience to stand, clap, dance, and sing – all surprised that such an instrument came from Jordanian soil. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "In rediscovered reed flute, a soulful link to Jordanian identity," 13 July 2018 Cortez, the Chief Photographer in AFP Mexico, was asked by Actual Futbol if he and the players were surprised by the moment. Pete Grathoff, kansascity, "Photographer in middle of Croatia’s goal celebration took amazing pictures," 12 July 2018 For Christy and Brian, the highlight of the ceremony was surprising their 165 guests with a gospel choir. Tamara Abraham, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Bridal Shop Owner Wore Five Different Dresses for her Palm Springs Wedding," 10 July 2018 But more than a dozen participants from several countries—most requesting anonymity out of fear of US retaliation—told the Times that the American officials surprised health experts and fellow delegates alike by fiercely opposing the resolution. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "US puts fierce squeeze on breastfeeding policy, shocking health officials," 9 July 2018 Obviously, that couldn’t have resulted from the shock of Trump’s surprise victory because Trump’s surprise victory had not occurred yet. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Glenn Greenwald Tells Russians Liberals Are Blaming Them As Excuse for Clinton," 9 July 2018 Garcetti shook his head, saddened if not surprised. Chanan Tigay, GQ, "Eric Garcetti Is the Anti-Trump, Pro–Star Wars Man We Need," 12 June 2018 Which doesn’t surprise Harrisburg immigration attorney Craig Shagin. Ronnie Polaneczky,, "Four Cameroonian teens are 'almost inconsolable' after being denied access to Philly basketball camp | Ronnie Polaneczky," 11 July 2018

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

10 Oct 2018

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, 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).


evasion of direct action or statement

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