Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Causing or capable of causing emotional shock or loss of consciousness.
  • adjective Of a strikingly attractive appearance.
  • adjective Impressive.
  • adjective Surprising.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The act or condition expressed by the verb stun; stupefaction.
  • Very striking; astonishing, especially by fine quality or appearance; of a most admirable or wonderful kind.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Overpowering consciousness; overpowering the senses; especially, overpowering the sense of hearing; confounding with noise.
  • adjective Slang Striking or overpowering with astonishment, especially on account of excellence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Having an effect that stuns.
  • adjective Exceptionally beautiful or attractive.
  • adjective Amazing.
  • verb Present participle of stun.

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

  • adjective strikingly beautiful or attractive
  • adjective commanding attention
  • adjective causing great astonishment and consternation
  • adjective causing or capable of causing bewilderment or shock or insensibility

Etymologies

Sorry, no etymologies found.

Examples

  • The administration negotiated what I called stunning reductions in trade, and in increases in tariff rate quotas, reductions in export subsidies, and elimination of sanitary and phytosanitary barriers in all products, virtually -- meats from beef, pork, poultry; dairy; citrus; specialty crops of all sorts.

    Briefing With John Podesta And Dan Glickman

  • Insurance regulators and safety activists are alarmed at what they describe as a stunning rise in the number of drivers who are cutting back or even dropping their auto insurance to save money during the recession.

    Latest Articles

  • Insurance regulators and safety activists are alarmed at what they describe as a stunning rise in the number of drivers who are cutting back or even dropping their auto insurance to save money during the recession.

    Newsvine - Get Smarter Here

  • By Susie Madrak Thursday Apr 09, 2009 4: 00pm Insurance regulators and safety activists are alarmed at what they describe as a stunning rise in the number of drivers who are cutting back or even dropping their auto insurance to save money during the recession.

    Crooks and Liars

  • Insurance regulators and safety activists are alarmed at what they describe as a stunning rise in the number of drivers who are cutting back or even dropping their auto insurance to save money during the recession.

    Original Signal - Transmitting Buzz

  • Insurance regulators and safety activists are alarmed at what they describe as a stunning rise in the number of drivers who are cutting back or even dropping their auto insurance to save money during the recession.

    msnbc.com: Top msnbc.com headlines

  • The voting population is changing in stunning ways, all of which will benefit the Democrats.

    A wake for the Republicans?

  • Of the 67 jewels in the collection, Mr. Lunel expresses particular passion for a ruby and diamond brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels designed as a Japanese chrysanthemum that he describes as "stunning" estimate: 270,000-450,000 francs.

    Geneva Auctions Glitter

  • You remember the people of your life in stunning detail.

    My big brother Jeff

  • Even more stunning is that Hobsbawm is held in such high esteem among academics to this very day.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Competing Explanations for the Oppressive Nature of Socialism

Comments

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  • strikingly beautiful or attractive.

    October 31, 2007

  • I find the following usage of the word strange:

    "More recently, Mr. Holbrooke wrestled with the stunning complexity of Afghanistan and Pakistan: how to bring stability to the region while fighting a resurgent Taliban and coping with corrupt governments, rigged elections, fragile economies, a rampant narcotics trade, nuclear weapons in Pakistan, and the presence of Al Qaeda, and presumably Osama bin Laden, in the wild tribal borderlands."

    – From the Robert D. McFadden's article on the late Richard Holbrooke, New York Times, 13 Dec 2010.

    Here McFadden uses "stunning" to mean something like "extremely daunting", but the word inevitably adds a note of admiration for the complexity of situation, which I find strange. Is this a fairly new usage? Pretentious/hip journalese?

    December 14, 2010

  • I read it as McFadden using stunning in AHD's sense #1 of stun - "to daze or render senseless, as if by a blow"; i.e. the situation was so complex as to leave one dazed.

    To my mind, the note of admiration is not inevitable and may represent a newer sense of the word. Someone with OED access could check this.

    December 14, 2010

  • Yarb, I think you're right. OED shows two definitions:

    1. That stuns or stupefies; dazing, astounding; deafening.

    2. Excellent, first-rate, "splendid", delightful; extremely attractive or good-looking.

    For #1, 1667 is the first citation (Milton, by the way, in Paradise Lost); 1849 is the first citation for #2 (Dickens, David Copperfield). Also noted is that #2 is a colloquial use.

    December 16, 2010

  • Thanks a million rt!

    I have the OED on CD on my home computer, but it seems to have stopped working. In any case I usually forget these things when I'm at home.

    December 16, 2010

  • Still, "stunning complexity" is not the best choice if you feel no admiration for the complexity. The first meaning the OED gives is the literal meaning of the word. McFadden did not intend to say that the complexity of the situation literally knocks people out in the way a "stunning blow to the head" would. He was trying to use the word figuratively and in this sense was employing a new meaning of the word, one not listed by the OED: "extremely difficult, daunting, challenging." This would be fine if there did not already exist an established figurative meaning of the word "stunning", which the OED duly records as its second definition: "excellent, first-rate, 'splendid', delightful, etc.". So because we know from news reports that the complexity of the Afghan situation is not delightful, we are left with a certain feeling of dissonance from this collocation: it does not mean the same thing it does in, for example, the phrase: "the stunning complexity of Bach's polyphony." So I find McFadden's usage of the word strange – unless, of course, he meant to say, literally, that the complexity of the situation left Holbrooke dazed, unable to reason, unconscious.

    December 16, 2010

  • I disagree, rolig. "To daze or render senseless" certainly can apply to the level of complexity in Afghanistan/Pakistan, without there necessarily being a blow to one's head about it. I think the result is similar to the result of a blow to one's head--in the same way people say "I can't think about that right now--it gives me a headache." They don't mean it *literally* hurts their head, but that its complexity is... well... stunning.

    Also, as I read definition 2, I think it really only applies/is commonly used in reference to a person's attractiveness, and actually relates to definition 1 in the sense that the person is SO attractive, their beauty SO amazing, that it's as if one is stunned (rendered senseless) to look at them.

    I agree the journalist could have found a better term, but this one's rather more neutral than others that could apply here, and given the political undertones of the Af/Pak situation and the fact that the article was about Holbrooke--not the situation itself--the relative neutrality of the term was probably a good thing.

    P.S. nice to see these kinds of conversations--and have time to read them. :)

    December 16, 2010

  • I just bought a holiday house in Kabul and all my friends were Afghanistunned.

    December 16, 2010

  • When I went to the liquor store* in Boston, I couldn't believe the wide variety of beverages. I was Pakistunned.

    *See packie.

    December 16, 2010

  • I don't think "stunning" has become inextricably wedded to sense #2 (although this is the more common sense these days), and I don't see why sense #1 need refer to a literal, physical blow rather than a figurative one.

    December 16, 2010