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 There was surprise at the quick consequences for the singer - who has consistently escaped repercussions for misbehavior - and particularly the immediate removal of his music from radio. Emily Yahr, Anchorage Daily News, "A racist slur, a groundbreaking coming out and country music’s future hanging in the balance," 12 Feb. 2021 Howard said his team has looked sloppy on the practice court, but that's not a surprise. Noah Trister, Star Tribune, "No. 3 Michigan hopes to shake off rust after long layoff," 12 Feb. 2021 That is hardly a surprise, but what is somewhat of a shock is the number of votes Warriors guard Klay Thompson has received. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, "Warriors' Curry leads guards in All-Star voting; injured Thompson gaining traction," 11 Feb. 2021 For example, a first-rounder making the NHL is not a surprise, but even getting a sixth or seventh-round pick to the NHL is a minor victory for scouts. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Matt’s mail: Looking at Miro Heiskanen’s start to the season, the Stars’ drafting and more," 10 Feb. 2021 No fans at the US Division arenas, which isn’t a surprise. Dylan Bumbarger, oregonlive, "Trending Winterhawks: a late March start, but many details are still unknown," 7 Feb. 2021 If this is a surprise, consider the fact that Greene herself went to college. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "The Democratic Party Has a Fatal Misunderstanding of the QAnon Phenomenon," 5 Feb. 2021 Although Hill did not reveal his college choice before the ceremony, the decision was not a surprise. Chris Dabe,, "A sign of the times: Karr's Destyn Hill reveals Florida State football choice on face mask," 3 Feb. 2021 Halsey just made a surprise announcement and fans are definitely excited by the news! Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Halsey Announces Her Pregnancy With a Surprise Photoshoot," 27 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Ultimately, the move for Sarkisian shouldn’t surprise anyone. Michael Casagrande |, al, "What Steve Sarkisian to Texas means for Alabama’s national title hopes," 3 Jan. 2021 The announcement that Mario Lopez is playing Colonel Sanders in an upcoming mini-movie from KFC and Lifetime should surprise no one who has followed his vast and varied career. Abby Hamblin, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Mario Lopez on playing Colonel Sanders, the Saved by the Bell reboot and growing up in Chula Vista," 10 Dec. 2020 In a turn of events that should surprise absolutely no one, a New Orleans swingers convention held during the middle of a global pandemic has led to at least 41 cases of the coronavirus, with officials classifying the party as a superspreader event., "Of Course A New Orleans Swingers Convention Became A Major Superspreader Event," 2 Dec. 2020 Do any of the characters’ trajectories ever surprise you? Cressida Leyshon, The New Yorker, "Allegra Goodman on the Parents of Teens," 18 Jan. 2021 That doesn't surprise Yurie Hong, a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, a private college just 20 minutes from Mankato. Briana Bierschbach, Star Tribune, "In southern Minnesota swing district, trepidation about the future," 16 Jan. 2021 The Republic's findings didn't surprise community advocates who for the past few years have told Phoenix leaders that police shootings have mostly occurred in some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods., "Top 2020 exclusives: The stories you can see only if you subscribe," 27 Dec. 2020 This doesn’t surprise Bond, who saw similar behavior with smartphones. Washington Post, "How Xbox learned to sell its consoles like smart phones," 23 Dec. 2020 That would surprise many who see Trump as more of a reality television star than traditional president. Gromer Jeffers Jr., Dallas News, "Grover Cleveland biographer for Trump, Hood feminism for Biden highlight holiday gifts to politicos," 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

20 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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

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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Comments on surprise

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