definition of surprises by The Free Dictionary



tr.v. sur·prised, sur·pris·ing, sur·pris·es

1. To cause to feel wonder, astonishment, or amazement, as at something unanticipated: Thinking I was at home, she was surprised to see me in the office. We were surprised that he could recover so quickly.


a. To encounter or discover suddenly or unexpectedly; take or catch unawares: She surprised him as he was reading her diary.

b. To attack or capture suddenly and without warning: surprised the sentries in a predawn raid, wounding several.


a. To cause (someone) to do or say something unintended or to be in an unintended condition: “There passed a scene … that surprised me into courage to come forward” (Fanny Burney).

b. To elicit or detect through surprise: “She occasionally surprised a look on Jemima’s face” (Marcia Willett).


1. The act of surprising or the condition of being surprised: Imagine my surprise on seeing you here.

2. Something, such as an unexpected encounter, event, or gift, that surprises.

[Middle English surprisen, to overcome, from Old French surprise, feminine past participle of surprendre, to surprise : sur-, sur- + prendre, to take (from Latin prehendere, prēndere, to seize; see ghend- in Indo-European roots).]

sur·pris′er n.

sur·pris′ing·ly adv.

Synonyms: surprise, astonish, amaze, astound, dumbfound, flabbergast
These verbs mean to affect a person strongly as being unexpected or unusual. To surprise is to fill with often sudden wonder or disbelief as being unanticipated or out of the ordinary: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity” (George S. Patton).
Astonish suggests overwhelming surprise: The sight of such an enormous crowd astonished us. Amaze implies astonishment and often bewilderment: The violinist’s virtuosity has amazed audiences all over the world. Astound connotes shock, as from something unprecedented in one’s experience: We were astounded at the beauty of the mountains. Dumbfound adds to astound the suggestion of perplexity and often speechlessness: His question dumbfounded me, and I could not respond. Flabbergast is used as a more colorful equivalent of astound, astonish, or amaze: “He was utterly flabbergasted by the accusation and for a few moments he was quite unable to reply” (Alexander McCall Smith).

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.



vb (tr)

1. to cause to feel amazement or wonder

2. to encounter or discover unexpectedly or suddenly

3. to capture or assault suddenly and without warning

4. to present with something unexpected, such as a gift

5. (foll by into) to provoke (someone) to unintended action by a trick, etc: to surprise a person into an indiscretion.

6. (often foll by from) to elicit by unexpected behaviour or by a trick: to surprise information from a prisoner.


7. the act or an instance of surprising; the act of taking unawares

8. a sudden or unexpected event, gift, etc

9. the feeling or condition of being surprised; astonishment

10. (modifier) causing, characterized by, or relying upon surprise: a surprise move.

11. take by surprise

a. to come upon suddenly and without warning

b. to capture unexpectedly or catch unprepared

c. to astonish; amaze

[C15: from Old French, from surprendre to overtake, from sur-1 + prendre from Latin prehendere to grasp; see prehensile]

surˈprisal n

surˈprised adj

surprisedly adv

surˈpriser n

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(sərˈpraɪz, sə-)

v. -prised, -pris•ing,
n. v.t.

1. to strike with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, esp. by being unexpected.

2. to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly.

3. to make an unexpected assault on (an unprepared army, fort, person, etc.).

4. to lead or bring unawares into doing something unintended: to surprise someone into telling the truth.

5. to elicit suddenly and without warning.


6. the state of being surprised; a feeling of sudden wonder or astonishment, esp. at something unexpected.

7. something that surprises; an unexpected event, appearance, statement, or gift.

8. an act or instance of surprising or taking unawares.

9. an attack or assault made without warning.


take by surprise,

a. to come upon unawares.

b. to astonish; amaze.

sur•pris′er, n.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

amaze, surprise – Amaze once meant “alarm, terrify,” but now means “”; surprise means “meet with suddenly or without warning.”

Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.




  1. Crops up when you least expect it, like dandruff —Robin Worthington
  2. (I read the note over several times with a kind of stupid) incredulity, like an unbelieving prisoner reading the formal sentence of his own execution —Robert Traver
  3. Started [at sound of a sudden call] like a horse at the sound of the bugle —Stefan Zweig
  4. (She) started like a quiet, lovely insect into which someone had suddenly stabbed a pin —Elizabeth Spencer
  5. Startling as curves in a mountain road —Lorrie Moore
  6. (The idea was as) startling … as if in a blank wall before her a door had opened —Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  7. (Perception as) startling as watching a feeling cross a face on Mount Rushmore —Paige Mitchell
  8. Startling, like a face changing in front of you, from young to old, well to ill —Wilfrid Sheed
  9. Surprised and shocked as if she had heard an explosion and seen her own shattered legs go flying across the floor —Rachel Ingalls
  10. Surprised as a sardine that went to sleep in the ocean and woke up in a delicatessen store —Arthur Baer
  11. Surprised [physical reaction] me as much as if I were a baby suddenly popped from the womb —Angela Carter
  12. Surprise made me look like a goldfish —Rebecca West
  13. Surprises keep us living: as when the first light surprised our infant eyes —Louis MacNeice
  14. Surprising as a child’s laugh rising higher, higher, higher —Babette Deutsch
  15. (Sharp pain pierced his chest, as quick and) unexpected as the materialization of a hairline crack in bone —Paige Mitchell
  16. Unexpected as aluminum siding in Buckingham Palace —Anon
  17. Unexpected as best seller status for a book of Latin quotations —Anon
  18. Unexpected as a heart attack —Anon
  19. Unexpected as a heat wave in February —Anon
  20. Unexpected as gourmet food in a second rate hotel —Anon
  21. Unexpected as snow in July —Anon
  22. Unexpectedly wonderful treat, like blue skies and warmth in a chilly spring —Janet Flanner
  23. You never know what somebody’s got in him: like the man with germs, suddenly he’s down in bed with a crisis —Clifford Odets

Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



bolt from the blue A sudden and entirely unexpected or unforeseen occurrence; a complete surprise; also, the adverbial phrases out of the blue and out of a clear blue sky ’unexpectedly, suddenly; without warning or notice.’ The allusion is to suddenness and surprise similar to that which would be experienced if a bolt of lightning were unexpectedly to appear in a cloudless sky. Although bolt from the blue was in use as early as 1837, out of the blue did not appear until 1919.

bug-eyed Astonished, surprised; aghast with wonder or awe; literally, to have protruding eyes as do certain species of bugs. Though this precise adjective form did not appear until the 1920s, conceptually equivalent expressions date from considerably earlier.

Wouldn’t their eyes bug out, to see ’em handled like that? (Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883)

knock for a loop See CONFUSION.

Scarborough warning Little or no forewarning, no previous notice; a total shock. This expression may allude to the 1557 siege of Scarborough castle, which took its inhabitants completely off guard. Another possible origin concerns a harsh law enacted in Scarborough which allowed the punishment of robbery suspects prior to a trial. In any event, the expression, used frequently in Great Britain until the mid-1800s, is virtually never heard today.

The true man for giving Scarborough warning—first knock you down, then bid you stand. (Sir Walter Scott, Redgauntlet, 1824)

taken aback Surprised or stunned into immobility. This was originally a nautical term describing a square-rigged ship whose sails are blown against the mast, thus preventing further forward movement. An early figurative usage employs the term all aback:

On this subject I am literally as the sailors say all aback. (Edward Winslow, Winslow Papers, 1783)

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Surprise can be a verb or a noun.

1. used as a verb

If something surprises you, you did not expect it.

What you say surprises me.

Her decision to resign had surprised everybody.

Don’t use a progressive form of surprise. Don’t say, for example, ‘What you say is surprising me‘.

2. used as a noun

If something is a surprise, it surprises someone.

The result came as a surprise to everyone.

It was a great surprise to find out I had won.

In stories, expressions such as to my surprise and to her surprise are sometimes used to show that someone is surprised by something.

To her surprise he said no.

Be Careful!
Don’t use any preposition except to in these expressions. Don’t say, for example, ‘For her surprise he said no‘.

3. “”

Surprised is an adjective. If you are surprised to see something or surprised to hear something, you did not expect to see it or hear it.

I was surprised to see her return so soon.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I disagreed with this.

Be Careful!
Don’t say that someone is ‘surprised at seeing’ or ‘surprised at hearing’ something. Don’t say that someone is ‘surprise to’ see or hear something. Don’t say, for example, ‘I was surprised at seeing her return‘ or ‘I was surprise to see her return‘.

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012


Past participle: surprised
Gerund: surprising

I surprise
you surprise
he/she/it surprises
we surprise
you surprise
they surprise
I surprised
you surprised
he/she/it surprised
we surprised
you surprised
they surprised
Present Continuous
I am surprising
you are surprising
he/she/it is surprising
we are surprising
you are surprising
they are surprising
Present Perfect
I have surprised
you have surprised
he/she/it has surprised
we have surprised
you have surprised
they have surprised
Past Continuous
I was surprising
you were surprising
he/she/it was surprising
we were surprising
you were surprising
they were surprising
Past Perfect
I had surprised
you had surprised
he/she/it had surprised
we had surprised
you had surprised
they had surprised
I will surprise
you will surprise
he/she/it will surprise
we will surprise
you will surprise
they will surprise
Future Perfect
I will have surprised
you will have surprised
he/she/it will have surprised
we will have surprised
you will have surprised
they will have surprised
Future Continuous
I will be surprising
you will be surprising
he/she/it will be surprising
we will be surprising
you will be surprising
they will be surprising
Present Perfect Continuous
I have been surprising
you have been surprising
he/she/it has been surprising
we have been surprising
you have been surprising
they have been surprising
Future Perfect Continuous
I will have been surprising
you will have been surprising
he/she/it will have been surprising
we will have been surprising
you will have been surprising
they will have been surprising
Past Perfect Continuous
I had been surprising
you had been surprising
he/she/it had been surprising
we had been surprising
you had been surprising
they had been surprising
I would surprise
you would surprise
he/she/it would surprise
we would surprise
you would surprise
they would surprise
Past Conditional
I would have surprised
you would have surprised
he/she/it would have surprised
we would have surprised
you would have surprised
they would have surprised

Collins English Verb Tables © HarperCollins Publishers 2011

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