Meaning of “surprise” in the English Dictionary

"surprise" in British English

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uk /səˈpraɪz/ us /sɚˈpraɪz/

surprise noun (EVENT)

A2 [ C ] an unexpected event:

Don't tell Anne we've arranged a party for her - I want it to be a surprise.
It was a wonderful/nasty surprise to get home and find the letter.
Last night's heavy snow came as a complete surprise.
You're always full of surprises (= doing unexpected things).
I wish you wouldn't keep springing surprises on me (= telling me unexpected things or causing unexpected things to happen).
They mounted a surprise attack at dawn.
My uncle paid us a surprise visit yesterday.

More examples

  • Close your eyes - I've got a surprise for you.
  • I tried to conceal my surprise when she told me her age.
  • Her confession was no surprise to him, - just the confirmation of a long-held suspicion.
  • The dizzying pace of political change in the country caught many people by surprise.
  • The people showed no surprise or anger at their treatment.

surprise noun (FEELING)

B2 [ U ] the feeling caused by something unexpected happening:

He looked at her in/with surprise.
To my great surprise, they agreed to all our demands.

surpriseverb [ T ]

uk /səˈpraɪz/ us /sɚˈpraɪz/

B1 to make someone feel surprise:

The news surprised everyone.
[ + that ] It doesn't surprise me that their parents don't want them to get married.
[ + to infinitive ] It will not surprise anyone to learn that the offer has been rejected.
[ + question word ] Janet was surprised how quickly the time passed.

to find, catch, or attack someone when they are not expecting it:

The robbers had just opened the safe when they were surprised by the police.
[ + -ing verb ] His mother surprised him helping himself to her gin.

More examples

  • It won't surprise you to learn that she has left the company.
  • They surprised their father by cleaning the house from top to bottom.
  • Their generosity surprised me.
  • It often surprises people that we don't charge money for our service.
  • I wanted to surprise my parents, so I turned up with my hair dyed black.

(Definition of “surprise” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"surprise" in American English

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surprisenoun [ C/U ]

us /sərˈprɑɪz, sə-/

an unexpected event, or the feeling caused when something unexpected happens:

[ C ] Don’t tell Ann we’re having a party for her – I want it to be a surprise.
[ C ] Last night’s heavy snow came as a complete surprise.
[ U ] To my great surprise, they gave us everything we asked for.
adjective [ not gradable ] us /sərˈprɑɪz, sə-/

The basketball player paid a surprise visit to the campus on Thursday.

surpriseverb [ T ]

us /sərˈprɑɪz, sə-/

(of an event you did not expect) to cause you to feel excitement over a sudden discovery:

She surprised a lot of tennis fans by winning the Canadian Open.

If you say that you are not surprised or would not be surprised if something happened, you mean that you almost expect it:

I’m not surprised that their parents don’t want them to get married.
I would not be surprised to see the economy slow down next year.

To surprise someone is also to find the person unexpectedly:

She jumped out and surprised her sister, who ran out into the hall.

(Definition of “surprise” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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