Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Happening without warning; unforeseen: a sudden storm.
  • adj. Characterized by hastiness; abrupt or rash: a sudden decision. See Synonyms at impetuous.
  • adj. Characterized by rapidity; quick and swift.
  • idiom all of a sudden Very quickly and unexpectedly; suddenly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Happening quickly and with little or no warning, snell.
  • adv. Suddenly.
  • n. An unexpected occurrence; a surprise.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Happening without previous notice or with very brief notice; coming unexpectedly, or without the common preparation; immediate; instant; speedy.
  • adj. Hastly prepared or employed; quick; rapid.
  • adj. Hasty; violent; rash; precipitate.
  • adv. Suddenly; unexpectedly.
  • n. An unexpected occurrence; a surprise.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Happening without notice, instantly and unexpectedly; immediate; instant.
  • Found or hit upon unexpectedly.
  • Hastily made, put in use, employed, prepared, etc.; quick; rapid.
  • Hasty; violent; rash; precipitate; passionate.
  • In zoology, abrupt; sharply defined from neighboring parts: as, a sudden antennal club; a sudden truncation.
  • n. That which is sudden; a surprise; an unexpected occurrence.
  • Suddenly; unexpectedly.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. happening without warning or in a short space of time

Etymologies

Middle English sodain, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *subitānus, from Latin subitāneus, from subitus, from past participle of subīre, to approach stealthily : sub-, secretly; see sub- + īre, to go; see ei- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English sodain, from Anglo-Norman sodein, from Old French sodain, subdain ("immediate, sudden"), from Vulgar Latin *subitānus ("sudden"), from Latin subitaneus ("sudden"), from subitus ("sudden", literally, "that which has come stealthily"), originally the past participle of subire ("to come or go stealthily"), from sub ("under") + ire ("go"). (Wiktionary)

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