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 No surprise, this new Hyundai scores high on value. Patrick Bedard, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2007 Compact Car Comparison," 18 Nov. 2020 Some French social media users expressed surprise or even outrage that RFI had already written articles about people's deaths. Aurelien Breeden New York Times, Star Tribune, "News site mistakenly runs dozens of VIP obituaries," 17 Nov. 2020 Some French social media users expressed surprise or even outrage that RFI had already written articles about people’s deaths. Aurelien Breeden, New York Times, "Not Dead Yet: News Site Mistakenly Runs Dozens of V.I.P. Obituaries," 17 Nov. 2020 No surprise here, but State Road A1A will be closed between Sunrise Boulevard and Northeast 19th Court from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 21-22, so expect traffic to move at a glacial pace near Sunrise. Phillip Valys,, "Fort Lauderdale Air Show 2020 guide to high-flying stunts, parking, tickets, livestream," 17 Nov. 2020 App developers expressed surprise, and in at least one case disbelief, when told access to their location data was being purchased by the Defense Department and military contractors. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "App developers oblivious to US military buying access to location data," 16 Nov. 2020 Zuberi’s attorney, Thomas P. O’Brien, expressed surprise at the government’s sentencing recommendation. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, "Prosecutors urge $10-million fine, up to 13 years in prison for L.A. Trump donor," 11 Nov. 2020 But some officials have expressed surprise in recent weeks that Moscow, by some measures, has been relatively quiet compared with four years ago, and that Iran has stepped up its interference ambitions instead. Robert Mcmillan, WSJ, "Russian Hacks of U.S. Government Networks Prompt Election Warning," 23 Oct. 2020 In fact, Russian coverage expressed surprise over Biden’s debate performance. Robert Hinck, The Conversation, "Russian media may be joining China and Iran in turning on Trump," 20 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Everything is weird, everything is unorthodox, nothing should surprise anymore. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Red All Over: I got on the plane, then the Utes game got canceled. Ugh.," 19 Nov. 2020 This shouldn’t surprise anybody who watched him during the campaign. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "The Long-Term Damage of Trump’s Antidemocratic Lies," 13 Nov. 2020 Such results do not surprise Scott, who co-authored a 2003 article in Academic Emergency Medicine about how minorities tap medical care differently due to such factors as lack of access to care or insurance or strong relationships with doctors. Washington Post, "Peer coaches work to address covid-19, other health disparities," 8 Nov. 2020 Franchi’s resilience doesn’t surprise Hany Farid, a University of California at Berkeley computer science professor who studies YouTube’s response to conspiracy channels. John Keilman,, "Critics call Gary Franchi’s YouTube channel, the Next News Network, a hive of conspiracy theories. So how has it survived the platform’s conspiracy crackdown?," 31 Oct. 2020 Wouldn’t surprise anyone here if more people in Alabama watched the Dolphins game this weekend than the Crimson Tide’s home game against Mississippi State. Joseph Goodman |, al, "What type of player will Tua Tagovailoa be for the Dolphins?," 30 Oct. 2020 Las Vegas oddsmakers expect this to be the highest scoring game of the week, and that should not surprise anyone. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, "Tennessee Titans vs. Cincinnati Bengals picks, predictions: Who wins Week 8 NFL game?," 30 Oct. 2020 Perhaps the odd goings-on in the house didn't surprise the family after that first manifestation, but there were plenty of incidents that would have spooked the faint of heart. R. Stephanie Bruno,, "In a real-life ghost story, Uptown homeowner says she shares her 1895 Queen Anne with spirits," 29 Oct. 2020 Las Vegas oddsmakers expect this to be the highest scoring game of the week, and that should not surprise anyone. Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times, "N.F.L. Week 8 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread," 29 Oct. 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

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

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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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