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

  • transitive verb To cause to feel wonder, astonishment, or amazement, as at something unanticipated.
  • transitive verb To encounter or discover suddenly or unexpectedly; take or catch unawares.
  • transitive verb To attack or capture suddenly and without warning.
  • transitive verb To cause (someone) to do or say something unintended or to be in an unintended condition.
  • transitive verb To elicit or detect through surprise.
  • noun The act of surprising or the condition of being surprised.
  • noun Something, such as an unexpected encounter, event, or gift, that surprises.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The act of coming upon anything unawares, or of taking it suddenly and without warning or preparation: as, the fort was taken by surprise.
  • noun The state of being seized with astonishment; an emotion excited by something happening suddenly and unexpectedly; astonishment; amazement.
  • noun Anything which causes the feeling of surprise, as an unexpected event or a novel and striking thought.
  • noun A dish covered with a crust of raised paste, but with no other contents, or with contents of unexpected quality or variety.
  • noun Same as back-scratcher, 2.
  • noun Synonyms See surprise, v., and surprising.
  • To come upon unexpectedly; fall upon or assail suddenly and without warning; take or capture one who is off his guard, by an unexpected movement.
  • To seize suddenly; capture.
  • To disconcert; confuse; confound.
  • To strike with sudden astonishment, as by something unexpected or remarkable either in conduct or in speech, or by the appearance of something unusual: often used in a weakened sense.
  • To lead or bring unawares; betray; lead (a person) to do or say something without previous intention: with into: as, to be surprised into making a confession or an explanation.
  • To hold possession of; hold.
  • Synonyms Surprise, Astonish, Amaze, Astound, startle. The italicized words are in the order of strength. They express the effect upon the mind of that which is unexpected and perhaps sudden. To surprise is, literally, to take unawares or suddenly, to affect with wonder: as, I am surprised to find you here. Astonish applies especially to that which is great or striking. Amaze, literally, to put into a maze, is used to express perturbation or bewilderment in one's surprise, and naturally therefore belongs to that which closely concerns one's self or is incomprehensible. To astound is to overwhelm with surprise, to make dumb, helpless, or unable to think. We are surprised at a thing because we did not expect it, astonished because of its remarkableness in some respect, amazed because we cannot understand how it came to pass, astounded so that we do not know what to think or do.

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

  • transitive verb To come or fall suddenly and unexpectedly; to take unawares; to seize or capture by unexpected attack.
  • transitive verb To strike with wonder, astonishment, or confusion, by something sudden, unexpected, or remarkable; to confound.
  • transitive verb To lead (one) to do suddenly and without forethought; to bring (one) into some unexpected state; -- with into.
  • transitive verb obsolete To hold possession of; to hold.
  • noun The act of coming upon, or taking, unawares; the act of seizing unexpectedly; surprisal.
  • noun The state of being surprised, or taken unawares, by some act or event which could not reasonably be foreseen; emotion excited by what is sudden and strange; a suddenly excited feeling of wonder or astonishment.
  • noun Anything that causes such a state or emotion.
  • noun obsolete A dish covered with a crust of raised paste, but with no other contents.
  • noun [U.S.] a party of persons who assemble by mutual agreement, and without invitation, at the house of a common friend.

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

  • noun Something not expected.
  • noun attributive Unexpected.
  • noun The feeling that something unexpected has happened.
  • verb transitive To cause (someone) to feel unusually alarmed or delighted.
  • verb transitive To do something to (a person) that they are not expecting, as a surprise.
  • verb intransitive To undergo or witness something unexpected.
  • verb intransitive To cause surprise.
  • verb transitive To attack unexpectedly.
  • verb transitive To take unawares.
  • adjective Unexpected.

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

  • verb come upon or take unawares
  • noun the act of surprising someone
  • noun the astonishment you feel when something totally unexpected happens to you
  • noun a sudden unexpected event
  • verb attack by storm; attack suddenly
  • verb cause to be surprised


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

[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).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Middle French surprise ("an overtake"), from noun use of past participle of Old French surprendre ("to overtake"), from sur- ("over") + prendre ("to take"), from Latin prendere, contracted from prehendere ("to grasp, seize")


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