From the second edition (1989):
surprise, n.
(səˈpraɪz) Forms: see the verb; also 6 Sc. surpryis, 9 Sc. seerpreese. [a. AF., OF. surprise (= It., Sp. sorpresa, Pg. surpresa), pa. pple. fem., used subst., of surprendre: see next. Cf. the earlier supprise n.]


1. Mil. The (or an) act of assailing or attacking unexpectedly or without warning, or of taking by this means; sudden attack or capture of a fort, a body of troops, etc. that is unprepared; †formerly also in more general sense, seizure (of a person, a place, or spoil).

1457 Harding Chron. in Eng. Hist. Rev. Oct. (1912) 747 The wynners had it all withoute surpryse. 1583 Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 196/2 Odiosissime et innaturalis surreptionis lie surpryis, captivitatis, restrictionis lie restraint regie persone. 1617 Moryson Itin. ii. 159 Carefull watches against sallies or surprises of the Enemy. 1635 Heywood Hierarchy ii. 81 Æneas caried his‥houshold gods into Italy, after the surprise and combustion of Troy. 1645 E. Pagitt Heresiogr. i. 11 The surprise of Munster [which had been besieged 18 months]. 1648 Eikon Bas. xxi. 193 Nor doe I think, that by the surprize of my Letters, I have lost any more then so many papers. 1704 Swift Batt. Bks. Misc. (1711) 259 Resolving by Policy or Surprize, to attempt some neglected Quarter of the Antients Army. 1772 Chron. in Ann. Reg. 129/1 Those taken prisoners in the surprize of the baggage. 1802 James Milit. Dict. s.v., When it is found expedient to attempt a surprize in the field, a sufficient number of men must be collected for the purpose. 1879 Froude Cæsar xiv. 203 A fortified camp‥capable of resisting surprises. Ibid. 220 The surprise was complete: the Roman army was in confusion.


2. a. gen. The (or an) act of coming upon one unexpectedly, or of taking unawares; a sudden attack. Now rare or Obs. exc. as in b.

1598 Shakes. Merry W. v. v. 131 The guiltinesse of my minde, the sodaine surprize of my powers. 1609 Tourneur Funeral Poem 439 Where sodaine dangers with a fierce access Have made surprise upon him. 1622 R. Hawkins Voy. S. Sea (1847) 135 Neither packe nor chest is free from their [sc. insects'] surprises. 1796 Burke Corr. (1844) IV. 394 This is no casual error, no lapse, no sudden surprise. 1894 H. Drummond Ascent of Man 198 What deer have to arm themselves most against is surprise.


b. to take by surprise (†at a surprise): to come upon unexpectedly, take unawares; hence, to astonish by unexpectedness: = surprise v. 3, 5.

[1687 T. Brown Saints in Uproar Wks. 1730 I. 78 To hinder the wicked from attacking you by surprize.] 1691 tr. Emilianne's Observ. Journ. Naples 305 He might always be sure of his Blow, and could never be taken at a Surprize. 1806 J. Beresford Miseries Hum. Life (ed. 3) ii. vii, A rushy pool, which takes you by surprise. 1849 Macaulay Hist. Eng. viii. II. 365 That he was taken by surprise is true. But he had twelve hours to make his arrangements. 1860 Tyndall Glac. ii. xx. 338 This statement, I confess, took me by surprise. 1875 Stubbs Const. Hist. II. xvi. 482 Richard took the kingdom by surprise.


c. An attack of illness; a sudden access of emotion. Obs.

1670 W. Montagu in Buccleuch MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm.) I. 480 She‥was at the time of her surprise actually intending the proposal. 1697 Collier Ess. Mor. Subj. i. (1709) 120 In the Heat and Surprize of Passion. 1719 De Foe Crusoe ii. (Globe) 330 An Excess of Joy, a Surprize of Joy.


3. a. Something that takes one by surprise; an unexpected occurrence or event; anything unexpected or astonishing.

1592 Arden of Feversham iii. iii. 30 Such great impression tooke this fond surprise. God graunt this vision bedeeme me any good. 1670 Cotton Espernon iii. xii. 639 He was in Bed,‥when this news came to him; and doubtless it was convenient for him, that it should find him in that posture, the better to resist so strange a surprize. 1770 Foote Lame Lover iii. 69 My being here was as much a surprize upon Miss Charlot as ——. 1772 Priestley Inst. Relig. (1782) I. 278 They are never any surprize to us. 1870 Mozley Univ. Serm. iv. (1876) 91 Surprises of this kind here‥look like auguries of a greater surprise in the next world. 1879 S. C. Bartlett Egypt to Pal. iv. 97 Egypt, it has been well said, is the land of surprises.


b. spec. A fancy dish, or an ingredient of a dish, a present, or the like, designed to take one by surprise.

1708 W. King Cookery v, A Surprize is‥a dish‥which promising little from its first appearance, when open abounds with all sorts of variety. 1888 Harper's Mag. Jan. 240/1 One lady‥worked day and night‥to achieve her various ‘surprises’. 1888 ‘J. S. Winter’ Bootle's Childr. xi, We want you to make us a surprise to put Father's Christmas present in. 1893 Earl Dunmore Pamirs II. 233 Plates of hot dough, with all sorts of juicy surprises inside them.


4. The feeling or emotion excited by something unexpected, or for which one is unprepared.a. Alarm, terror, or perplexity, caused by a sudden attack, calamity, or the like. Obs.

1608 Shakes. Per. iii. ii. 17 Our lodgings‥Shooke as the earth did quake:‥Pure surprize and feare, made me to quite the house. 1722 De Foe Plague (1754) 221, I have seen them in strange Agitations and Surprises on this Account. 1758 S. Hayward Serm. xvi. 496 Every thing‥conspires to fill the soul with gloom and melancholy, nay with the greatest surprize and consternation. 1816 Scott Antiq. xxvii, My lord has been in sic a distress, and sic seerpreese, as I ne'er saw man in my life.


b. The feeling or mental state, akin to astonishment and wonder, caused by an unexpected occurrence or circumstance. Also, in phr. the surprise of one's life(time); cf. of one's life s.v. life n. 8a.

1686 tr. Chardin's Trav. Persia 20 The Vizier, faigning a kind of surprise, And what, said he, Are those Gentlemen still here? 1743 Pococke Descr. East I. ii. v. 122 We went on to the north, the Nile running through the rocks.‥ I ask'd them when we should come to the cataract, and to my great surprize they told me, that was the cataract. a1763 Shenstone Ess. Wks. 1765 II. 214 Surprise quickens enjoyment, and expectation banishes surprise. 1822 Scott Nigel x, Lord Dalgarno expressed much surprise at understanding that Nigel proposed an instant return to Scotland. 1908 G. K. Chesterton Orthodoxy iii. (1909) 52 By asking for pleasure, he lost the chief pleasure; for the chief pleasure is surprise.
with a. 1712 Addison Spect. No. 357 ⁋8 Circumstances which give a delightful Surprize to the Reader. 1794 Mrs. Radcliffe Myst. Udolpho xxvii, She looked with a surprise on Annette. 1898 ‘H. S. Merriman’ Roden's Corner xiii. 138 Cornish‥looked at the printed words with a vague surprise.
phr. 1927 W. E. Collinson Contemp. Eng. 117 The surprise of his lifetime. 1931 Daily Express 15 Oct. 19/3 You will have the surprise of your life.


c. As int.: surprise, surprise: an exclamation indicating surprise. Sometimes parenthetically. Freq. in irony or sarcasm.

1953 B. Glemser Dove on his Shoulder vi. 111 ‘Roger!’ Miss Marsh laughed. ‘Surprise! Surprise!’ 1962 Times 24 Nov. 4/6 The plum Monday spot finally went—surprise, surprise—to our old friend Naked City. 1970 A. Price Labyrinth Makers xiv. 178 Surprise, surprise! I didn't expect to see you. 1978 I. Murdoch Sea 106, I gather you didn't even know Lizzie was living with Gilbert. Surprise, surprise. Everybody knew that. 1982 N. Painting Reluctant Archer vii. 124 At the end of the programme the identity of the ‘mystery accompanist’ was divulged. It was of course (surprise, surprise!) me!


5. a. attrib. and Comb., as surprise attack, surprise target, surprise turn, surprise visit, surprise weapon; surprise-free adj.; surprise packet, a sealed packet with contents designed to surprise, sold at a trivial price; also fig.; surprise-party, (a) a body of troops for an unexpected attack; (b) orig. U.S., a party who meet by agreement at a friend's house without invitation, bringing provisions with them; also, the celebration or function itself; surprise-piece, a part of the mechanism of a repeating watch (see quot.).

1900 Daily News 4 Aug. 6/1 Our *surprise attacks only surprised ourselves by the thoroughness of the enemy's preparation for them. 1968 Listener 20 June 791/1 Kahn and Wiener flatly deny that they're making ‘predictions’: they are merely sketching ‘possible scenarios’ for the future, based on what they call ‘*surprise-free projections’. 1900 Westm. Gaz. 15 Sept. 3/2 There is a dash of the ‘*surprise packet’—if the expression may pass—about this bulky volume. 1841 Lever C. O'Malley xlv. 235 Three cavalry regiments‥intended for a *surprise party. 1858 H. D. Thoreau Jrnl. 9 Aug. (1906) XI. 86 There are also regattas and fireworks and ‘surprise parties’ and horse-shows. 1860 O. W. Holmes Prof. Breakf.-t. iv, Now, then, for a surprise-party! 1872 Schele de Vere Americanisms 236 On such an occasion friends and parishioners appear suddenly—for it is generally a surprise-party at the same time—at the parsonage. 1909 E. Nesbit Daphne in Fitzroy St. xvii. 272, I thought you'd like the surprise party. Was I wrong? 1969 N. W. Parsons Sagebrush Harp xxi. 118 A vogue for surprise parties began among the English families in our community. 1884 F. J. Britten Watch & Clockm. 254 *Surprise Piece‥, a loose plate under the quarter snail of a repeating watch which prevents the quarter rack reaching the snail if the mechanism is set going at the hour. 1894 United Service Mag. Oct. 39 Practice at *surprise targets appearing suddenly at unknown ranges. 1891 C. MacEwen Three Wom. in One Boat 72 *Surprise-turns and crooked bends make you, if you know your river, as crafty as any old fox. 1891 Bp. W. How in F. D. How Mem. xxiii. (1898) 323, I‥paid them a *surprise visit. 1946 Rep. Internat. Control Atomic Energy (Dept. of State, Washington) I. 4 This danger is accentuated by the unusual characteristics of atomic bombs, namely their devastating effect as a *surprise weapon, that is, a weapon secretly developed and used without warning.


b. Bell-ringing. Applied to certain complicated methods of change-ringing.

1874 Banister Change Ringing 16 New Doubles‥may be rung by a system generally adopted by experienced ringers in surprise methods. Ibid. 58 London Surprise Major. 1902 Encycl. Brit. XXVI. 521/2 A variety of ‘plain methods’ and ‘Treble Bob methods’, among the latter being the so~called ‘Surprise’ methods, the most complicated and difficult of all.