Definitions

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

  • adjective Happening without warning; unforeseen.
  • adjective Happening or done without delay; hasty or immediate.
  • adjective Characterized by sharp change in elevation; precipitous.
  • idiom (all of a sudden) Very quickly and unexpectedly; suddenly.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Suddenly; unexpectedly.
  • 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.
  • noun That which is sudden; a surprise; an unexpected occurrence.

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

  • adverb rare Suddenly; unexpectedly.
  • adjective Happening without previous notice or with very brief notice; coming unexpectedly, or without the common preparation; immediate; instant; speedy.
  • adjective Hastly prepared or employed; quick; rapid.
  • adjective obsolete Hasty; violent; rash; precipitate.
  • noun An unexpected occurrence; a surprise.
  • noun sooner than was expected; without the usual preparation; suddenly.

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

  • adjective Happening quickly and with little or no warning, snell.
  • adverb poetic Suddenly.
  • noun obsolete An unexpected occurrence; a surprise.

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

  • adjective happening without warning or in a short space of time

Etymologies

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

[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.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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").

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