#197: 8 Powerful Synonyms for Feeling Surprised in English

Feb 10, 2021 | Advanced Vocabulary

How would you explain how you feel when you:

  • Find $20 on the sidewalk
  • Open a birthday gift with plane tickets for a 2-week vacation
  • Learn that your company lost its biggest client

Sure, in every case you might say you feel surprised. And that’s true.

But there are different kinds of feeling surprised, aren’t there? And different levels of surprise.

This is where knowing and using synonyms can be so powerful in your English skills. 💥 Not only do synonyms help to increase your English vocabulary and add variety to your conversations, but they also help you to be more precise so you can express what you want.

And today I want to invite you to explore the world of English synonyms with me.

To be precise, in today’s Confident English lesson, you’ll learn 8 synonyms for feeling surprised in English so you can always choose the exact word you want.

8 Powerful Synonyms for Feeling Surprised in English

with Definitions and Practical Examples


Think for a moment about the last time you felt surprised, what kind of surprise was it?

Was it one of those small unexpected moments that happened at the grocery store? When you accidentally bump into someone behind you? One of those, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.” kind of moments?

Or was it the kind of surprise you might feel when your boss calls you into the office and says, we want to offer you a promotion and the promotion is your dream job!

What about the kind of surprise of walking home on Friday at the end of a long day, after a long week after finishing a long tiring project, you walk into the house and your kids have cleaned the house. Everything is vacuumed. Someone bought you flowers, there’s a glass of wine and dinner is ready?

That is also a great surprise.

By now you’ve probably noticed I keep using that word surprise, but each of those experiences and the feeling of being surprised is a bit different.

So how would you explain those different kinds of feeling surprised in English?

I’m Annemarie with Speak Confident English. This is exactly where you want to be every week to get the confidence you want for your life and work in English.

And this week, you and I are going to play in the world of synonyms. As you know, synonyms are words that have a similar meaning, but there may be tiny, important differences among those synonyms.

In this video today, you’re going to learn a variety of synonyms, eight to be exact, for talking about feeling surprised in English…

so that when something unexpected happens to you, and you’re talking about it with friends, family members, or coworkers, you can be precise in your language. You can say exactly what you want to say.

Now as always with my vocabulary lessons, not only will I share with you what the word or expression is, but I’ll also highlight its meaning and how we use it in a sentence so that you can see a concrete example.

Now for you to not only learn, but also remember this vocabulary, I have two recommendations.

Number one, after you see the example sentences I share, I recommend that you think of your own example sentences. Sentences you might use in your real life.

The second thing you can do is build a daily practice for your vocabulary or build a daily habit. Recently, I shared a lesson on how to create effective habits in English, and I created a free download to help you track your progress.

And now let’s start with our first synonym for feeling surprised. Again, we’re looking at synonyms, but there is a bit of difference in the actual feeling of being surprised and how we might use these words.

The first one is aghast.

I like the way that word sounds aghast. To be aghast is to be struck with overwhelming shock or amazement.

You may be filled with a sudden feeling of fright or terror. Let’s look at all of those words in the definition. Would you say that feeling aghast is more likely a positive feeling word or a negative feeling word?

This word definitely leans toward the negative feeling of being surprised, because we all know there are some negative surprises in life. With that said you will occasionally hear people use it in a positive sense.

For example, if I said she was a guest that Brad Pitt sat next to her in the restaurant. In that moment, she might’ve had a sudden overwhelming feeling of shock.

However, you’re more likely to hear this word when something shockingly terrible happens. If you’re watching the news and something like that happens, you might say I was a guest while I was watching the news.

Now that we’ve got that first one off our list, let’s move on to some positive ones.

Number two is amazed, which means to be greatly surprised or filled with wonder.

In that definition, we saw greatly surprised. In other words, very surprised we’re using the word greatly or very for emphasis. So if you think of feeling surprised, multiplied, then amazed would be a great word to use.

For example, most sunsets are beautiful and we all love watching a gorgeous sunset or sunrise, but sometimes the colors are particularly spectacular. So you might say I was amazed at last night, sunset, the colors were incredible.

Similar to amazed is synonym number three, astonished, to be very surprised about something you didn’t expect.

Again, in that definition, you see the word very being used for emphasis. So astonished is certainly a more powerful way to describe that kind of feeling surprised.

For example, you might be surprised when your coworkers bring a cake to work, to celebrate your birthday, but you would feel astonished if your coworkers gave you an all-expenses paid vacation for a whole weekend as a birthday gift.

They’re both wonderful surprises, but one is definitely a more powerful feeling.

Number four is astounded.

We’ve got lots of “a” words on our list today. Astounded is extremely surprised so we’re getting even more powerful or extremely shocked.

Think about a time you were so surprised that you couldn’t think clearly, maybe you couldn’t even breathe. That is feeling astounded.

Number five on our list is one of my favorite words in English, because it’s just so strange sounding: flabbergasted.

Flabbergasted is to be overcome with astonishment or to be overcome with amazement.

Notice we’re using some of those synonyms astonished and amazed, but we’ve included the word overcome by those feelings. To be overcome is to be overpowered by something. There are effects or outcomes you can’t control. For example, how fast your heart is beating or how quickly you breathe.

For example, I was flabbergasted by his rude inappropriate behavior in the business meeting last week.

Now, if I was flabbergasted again, overcome with astonishment. That doesn’t mean that he was sitting in a business meeting like this looking angry and being rude. That’s surprising, but it doesn’t make me feel flabbergasted.

What is overwhelmingly shocking is if someone starts yelling, kicking, screaming, throwing papers everywhere in the office, because they’re angry, that is particularly surprising. And I might feel flabbergasted after watching someone do that.

Now synonym number six for feeling surprised is startled, a sudden unexpected shock or surprise.

This word is perfect for that situation I described at the beginning of the video, when you accidentally bump into somebody at the grocery store because you don’t see them, you might have that immediate unexpected feeling of, “Oh, sorry!”

The same is true if you open a door and someone is standing right there unexpectedly, you might have a moment of sudden shock or surprise. You might be startled. In fact, in those moments, you’ll often hear English speakers say, Oh, you startled me!”

Synonym number seven is stunned.

This word means amazed, astonished, or shocked. So, it is a perfect synonym for those other words that we’ve already learned.

Knowing this word and using it allows you the ability to say the same thing in multiple ways, bringing more variety and complexity to your English conversations.

And finally, to feel blown away or to be blown away.

This is a phrasal verb that means to be thoroughly impressed, overwhelmed by surprise, or even excited by something. This is a fun alternative to the feeling of being surprised. And it includes that feeling of excitement as well.

Can you think of something that was overwhelmingly surprising and maybe even a little exciting?

If so you would start your sentence with, “I was blown away by… “

I was blown away by their kindness.

I was blown away by their generosity.

I was blown away by how incredible the view was at the top of the mountain.

If you found today’s lesson useful to you, I would love to know. And you can tell me in three simple ways:

Number one, give this video a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to this channel so you never miss one of my Confident English lessons.

Number two, if you know someone who’s also trying to increase their vocabulary in English, share this lesson on Facebook or by email.

And number three, definitely take time to practice. You can share your practice answers with me in the comments below, and you can download that free vocabulary habit tracker that I’ve created as well.

Have a fantastic week. And I look forward to seeing you next time for your Confident English lesson.

Of course, now it’s time to practice!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know my top recommendations for learning and remembering new vocabulary. They definitely include real practice and that means creating your own example sentences.

For today, I want you to:

  1. Identify your favorite new synonym from today’s lesson.
  2. Think of a real-life situation when you felt surprised.
  3. Try using the new synonym in a sentence and share it with me in the comments below.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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