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


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

Stranger Things fans reeling from the final moments of Season 3 got a welcome surprise a few moments into the final credits, when an interruption offered sneak peek at what's to come in Season 4. Carrie Wittmer, Harper's BAZAAR, "Who Is the American in the Stranger Things 3 Post-Credits Scene?," 15 July 2019 Includes behind-the-scenes tour of Great Lakes production facility and guided tasting of the brewery’s seven core beers (and a surprise or two) while covering sensory analysis, style history / guidelines, brewing process, food pairings and more. Marc Bona,, "Beer calendar: Platform’s Half Christmas, BrewDog takeover, more," 15 July 2019 But what if a surprise summer rain shower interferes? Rachael Lallensack, Smithsonian, "Five Scientific Findings That Could Lead to New Inventions," 13 July 2019 This is beer country, so that the Centennial State is a top producer of craft brews isn’t a surprise. Kaitlyn Bancroft, The Denver Post, "Colorado’s craft beer industry isn’t pint-sized; find out where it rates compared with other states," 12 July 2019 The collaboration isn’t a complete surprise to folks with their ears to the ground in Birmingham’s craft brewing scene. Shauna Stuart |,, "Chef Rita Bernhardt will host her first wine dinner at Satterfield’s," 11 July 2019 May was a popular month for scooters The number of scooters on Indianapolis streets sank along with the temperatures this winter, so a rebound in the totals in May was not a surprise. Ethan May, Indianapolis Star, "There was 1 scooter available for every 47 fans during the Indy 500," 2 July 2019 Because of that, the July 1 vote was not a surprise. Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Palmyra-Eagle School Board has taken the next step toward dissolving the school district," 2 July 2019 But this year’s influx wasn’t a surprise because the government predicted those numbers at the beginning of the year., "An Oregon lawyer visited border patrol facilities in the El Paso sector; here’s what she knows and what it means.," 29 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

This time last year, Mr. Troubleman surprised her with a brand new custom Mercedes Benz convertible complete with a backseat full of gifts Christian Louboutin. Jasmine Grant, Essence, "T.I. Spoiled His Wife Tameka 'Tiny' Harris With This Lavish Birthday Surprise," 15 July 2019 His push surprised and energized animal rights activists, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the local animal group New Yorkers for Clean and Livable Streets. J. David Goodman, New York Times, "When Big Tobacco Invoked Eric Garner to Fight a Menthol Cigarette Ban," 14 July 2019 For the event’s 30th anniversary last year, the organization surprised Mr. Ray with first prize and a $5,000 award donated by friends and admirers. Colin Campbell,, "William Benjamin Ray Sr., opera star, civil rights activist, former Peabody Conservatory professor, dies at 94," 14 July 2019 During East Coweta’s kids’ baseball camp Finch surprised the pitcher, walking onto the field with the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award. Jacob Feldman,, "Kelley Lynch Wins Gatorade's 2019 National Female Athlete of the Year," 10 July 2019 Most horror stories surprise the audience with terrifying monsters that leap from the shadows. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "In season 3, Stranger Things’ celebration of ’80s pop culture becomes a political ideology," 8 July 2019 Barbra Streisand surprised the audience with a performance with Kris Kristofferson in London on July 7. Marianne Garvey, CNN, "Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson reunite for 'Star Is Born' duet," 8 July 2019 Our results surprised me, and offer an important lesson: Human ears are as unique as our feet. Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Denver Post, "The best way to review wireless earbuds is to have Sammy Hagar headbang with them," 7 July 2019 Not surprised at Votto’s production, but how quickly his numbers improved. Bobby Nightengale,, "Joey Votto's hot streak is no surprise to his Cincinnati Reds teammates," 29 June 2019

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

18 Jul 2019

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 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



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).


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