Meaning of take someone or something by surprise in English:

take someone or something by surprise


  • 1Attack or capture someone or something unexpectedly.

    ‘his flotilla was taken wholly by surprise when fired on by the British warships’
    • ‘The security officials were taken by surprise by the attack.’
    • ‘The attack took the troops by surprise, but was no more successful than any of the previous offensives.’
    • ‘Some have accused Franklin D. Roosevelt of deliberately permitting the attack to take his forces by surprise so as to bring the United States into the war.’
    • ‘Unknown at that time was the fact that the Japanese had pulled back many of their combat aircraft to prepare them for the suicide attacks that would take the Americans by surprise.’
    • ‘These tactics took our opponents by surprise, which, to a large extent, contributed to our victories.’
    • ‘When he spotted a machine-gun nest about to shoot up the main body, he charged, taking the Germans by surprise.’
    1. 1.1take someone by surpriseHappen when someone is not prepared or is expecting something different.
      ‘the question took David by surprise’
      • ‘My five-year-old son's question took me by surprise.’
      • ‘The question took Rebecca by surprise, and she was ashamed to admit the truth.’
      • ‘The question took Scott by surprise and he hesitated a moment before answering.’
      • ‘The question took me by surprise, and I eyed him warily.’
      • ‘For one split second, her question took him by surprise.’
      • ‘No matter how many times I am asked that question, it still takes me by surprise.’
      • ‘In the end he decided to pull the rug, though I do argue with the way he handled it, and it obviously took his coaches by surprise.’
      • ‘Zoe's illness took her family by surprise and crept into their lives gradually.’
      • ‘The vote's timing - at 3: 30 a.m., just before the House recessed for August - took opponents by surprise.’
      • ‘The sprawling capital has been hit by drought for months, but the speed of the fire's spread took residents by surprise.’
      take aback, surprise, shock, stun, stagger, astound, astonish, startle