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 The revelation that Bean is playing Wilford is not a huge surprise given the announcement last October that the actor was joining the show for season 2. Clark Collis,, "Snowpiercer season 2 teaser finally reveals identity of actor playing Mr. Wilford," 13 July 2020 Many shared their surprise and sadness over her death on social media. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Kelly Preston Has Died of Breast Cancer at 57," 13 July 2020 This response comes as little surprise given Trump's track record with attacking the Latinx community. Elly Belle,, "Customers Are Boycotting Goya Foods After The Company’s CEO Openly Praised Trump," 10 July 2020 That wasn’t a big surprise—antibodies had also waned in patients who recovered from SARS. Gregory Barber, Wired, "Covid-19 Immunity May Rely on a Microscopic Helper: T Cells," 10 July 2020 One thing Bilster Berg did demonstrate, to little surprise, is that the XB7's brakes struggle with racetrack use. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, "2021 Alpina XB7 Throws a Three-Ton Haymaker," 10 July 2020 No surprise there — Trump often criticized Smith, who wasn’t shy about calling out the president on lies and misrepresentations. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "Former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith signs with CNBC. Here's why that's a good thing," 9 July 2020 In talking to sources throughout the conference in the aftermath of the Big Ten’s decision, there was a sense of surprise and disappointment that the Big Ten decided on July 9 to move to a conference-only schedule. John Talty |, al, "What Big Ten’s conference-only decision means for SEC," 9 July 2020 Pitt, meanwhile, has appeared in several videos to offer support throughout the pandemic, including a sweet surprise for a sanitation worker in New Orleans who thanked Pitt for his work after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city in 2005. Ale Russian,, "Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Are Amicably Co-Parenting After 'a Lot of Family Therapy': Source," 8 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In the new Netflix series (streaming now), Brent partners with fashion designer Thai Nguyen and chef Gabriele Bertaccini to help grooms surprise partners with the weddings of their dreams in about a week. Erin Jensen, USA TODAY, "'I was a mess': Jeremiah Brent on Netflix's tear-jerking surprise-wedding series 'Say I Do'," 1 July 2020 The best time of year for fresh-from-the-sea lobster may surprise you. Kimberly Holland, Southern Living, "When Is Lobster Season?," 10 July 2020 The striking numbers do not surprise some who know this rural, majority Latino community. Kyung Lah, Julia Jones And Kim Berryman, CNN, "Medics are down to their last defense with coronavirus swamping their town," 9 July 2020 Is Back and the responses might surprise some people. Pat Brennan, The Enquirer, "FC Cincinnati notebook: Frankie Amaya, Allan Cruz discuss the logjam in the midfield," 8 July 2020 So, his excellent performance at the Elite 11 doesn’t surprise me. oregonlive, "Ty Thompson, Oregon Ducks QB commit, discusses Elite 11 performance; Rivals indicates he could add 5th star," 3 July 2020 Those numbers did not surprise Dr. Chris Kratochvil, associate vice chancellor for clinical research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and chair of the Big Ten Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "As college football confronts COVID-19 testing, surges unrelated to athletics may pose the biggest threat," 26 June 2020 That wouldn’t surprise anyone in Milwaukee or at IMG. Michael Casagrande |, al, "JC Latham’ rise from 8th grade dunker to Alabama 5-star recruit," 23 June 2020 Alaskans are used to being portrayed as spectacles and savages by mainstream media and TV (and especially reality TV), so these misleading headlines don’t really surprise me either. Tyler Freel, Outdoor Life, "Alaska’s Bear Hunting Regulation Changes Aren’t as Sensational as They Sound," 22 June 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

25 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surprise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 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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