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 In Conclusion Getting an attractive offer to buy your company can be a pleasant surprise, but getting from there to the finish line requires a lot of work. Kevin Murdock, Forbes, "What Should You Do When You Receive An Unsolicited Offer For Your Company?," 11 May 2021 While this is not a surprise, the questions remain. Andrea Petersen, WSJ, "Readers Share Kids’ Struggles—and a Few Triumphs—During the Pandemic," 11 May 2021 That was a surprise, since so many companies have reported that digital transformation dramatically accelerated. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, "The pandemic pressed pause on A.I. investment," 10 May 2021 Sophomore shortstop Mariann Blass has been a pleasant surprise after a stellar basketball season, hitting .556 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Bob Narang,, "Softball notes: York’s Lauren Derkowski putting up big numbers; Maine South outscores foes 40-4 in five-game winning streak," 9 May 2021 If the talented guard sets a commitment date for the coming week, Oregon should be considered the heavy favorite - and anything other than a commitment to the Ducks would be a pretty big surprise at this point. oregonlive, "Prediction: Oregon Ducks men’s basketball closing in on new commitment," 7 May 2021 This wasn’t a surprise to people who know how Facebook operates. Chris Smith, BGR, "Facebook admits defeat over controversial WhatsApp privacy policy," 7 May 2021 The storefront was briefly placed in the limelight when The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey made a surprise appearance as confirmed by former Sound Town manager Art Hoffman. Alyssa Fernandez, Dallas News, "Dallas’ vinyl heyday: The Melody Shop, Peaches, Sound Warehouse, LP Goodbuy and Sound Town caught a groove," 6 May 2021 That has been a surprise to those who predicted that Trump would not quietly leave the political stage after the election but would continue to be a constant commentator on events and his successor. Los Angeles Times, "Facebook board’s decision to uphold ban is a major political blow to Trump — for now," 5 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The comments may surprise some observers since China is Brazil’s largest trading partner. Peter Aitken, Fox News, "Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro suggests coronavirus made in lab to wage 'biological warfare': reports," 6 May 2021 Some of the potholes in booking charters may surprise you. Doug Gollan, Forbes, "Everything You Need To Know About Booking Private Jet Charters," 5 May 2021 The actual amount, extent and timimg of sunscreen that needs to be applied to the skin may also surprise you. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, "Choose the safest sunscreen for your family with this 2021 guide," 4 May 2021 Bookworms, however, may have noticed a very big difference between what's on the page in the Virgin River series, and what transpires on the screen, and for those who are yet to read the books — spoiler alert — the plot changes may surprise you. Perri Ormont Blumberg, Southern Living, "Mel's Character Origin Story Is So Different in the Virgin River Books," 4 May 2021 The extent of private ownership in China may surprise many investors. Andy Rothman, Fortune, "5 things Western investors misunderstand about China," 3 May 2021 This may surprise you, but electric-power generation is the source of only about seven per cent of Maine’s emissions. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, "No More Halfsies on Climate," 14 Apr. 2021 What may surprise you though, is this bizarre accident has happened around here before. Rachel Trent, CNN, "Turtle crashes through a car's windshield, sending a woman to the hospital," 24 Apr. 2021 Mac Jones has provided memorable moments during his Alabama career, but the game that stands out to former offensive coordinator Stave Sarkisian may surprise you. Mark Heim |, al, "Steve Sarkisian reveals game Mac Jones earned his, team’s respect: ‘Always kind of stands out to me’," 23 Apr. 2021

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 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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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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