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 the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]
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).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.