Definition of surprise in English:


Line breaks: sur|prise
Pronunciation: /səˈprʌɪz


  • 1An unexpected or astonishing event, fact, etc.: the announcement came as a complete surprise
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    • The trip here was full of surprises, like the fact that Jon got incredibly seasick almost the minute we left.
    • Surprise in war is achieved by doing the unexpected and the avoidance of unpleasant surprises is what military intelligence is all about.
    • The political environment in Louisiana is always full of surprises but is seldom surprising.
    shock, bolt from/out of the blue, thunderbolt, bombshell, revelation, source of amazement, rude awakening, eye-opener
    informal start
    turn up for the books, shocker, whammy
  • 1.1 [mass noun] A feeling of mild astonishment or shock caused by something unexpected: much to her surprise, she’d missed him
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    • Grant had an interesting expression, something of mild surprise, anger, and annoyance.
    • She looked down in mild surprise and disdain before breaking off the shaft and holding it up to inspect it more closely.
    • One detaches himself from the herd, I note with mild surprise, and heads outside with me.
  • 1.2 [as modifier] Denoting something done or happening unexpectedly: a surprise attack
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    • For his part, Eisenhower feared a surprise attack and war by miscalculation.
    • Others are engineers who manned machine guns to defend comrades from surprise attacks.
    • Initially, the air security service was tasked with preventing surprise attack by enemy aviation.
  • 2 [as modifier] Bell-ringing Denoting a complex method of change-ringing: surprise major


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surprise, surprise

Said when giving someone a surprise: a voice called out ‘Surprise, surprise!’ and all the lights suddenly flashed on
Said ironically when one believes that something was entirely predictable: we entrust you with Jason’s care and, surprise surprise, you make a mess of it
More example sentences
  • All the beautiful old stone work was taken away and, surprise, surprise, when it was rebuilt was replaced by ugly aluminium fencing which is an insult to the locality and a veritable eyesore.
  • It also found - surprise, surprise - that women prefer tall dark strangers, but do not like men with long hair, beards or stubble, who like football and smoke.
  • Hurricane Fabian is expected to graze the west of Bermuda on Friday night, bringing - surprise, surprise - strong winds and thunderstorms.

take someone/thing by surprise

Attack or capture someone or something unexpectedly: his flotilla was taken wholly by surprise when fired on by the British warships
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  • The security officials were taken by surprise by the attack.
  • The attack took the troops by surprise, but was no more successful than any of the previous offensives.
  • Some have accused Franklin D. Roosevelt of deliberately permitting the attack to take his forces by surprise so as to bring the United States into the war.
(take someone by surprise) Happen when someone is not prepared: the question took David by surprise
More example sentences
  • My five-year-old son's question took me by surprise.
  • The question took Rebecca by surprise, and she was ashamed to admit the truth.
  • The question took Scott by surprise and he hesitated a moment before answering.
take aback, surprise, shock, stun, stagger, astound, astonish, startle; dumbfound, daze, nonplus, stop someone in their tracks, stupefy, take someone's breath away; shake (up), jolt, throw, unnerve, disconcert, disturb, disquiet, unsettle, discompose, bewilder
informal flabbergast, knock for six, knock sideways, knock out, floor, strike dumb


late Middle English (in the sense 'unexpected seizure of a place, or attack on troops'): from Old French, feminine past participle of surprendre, from medieval Latin superprehendere 'seize'.

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