verb (used with object), startled, startling.
to disturb or agitate suddenly as by surprise or alarm.
to cause to start involuntarily, by or as by a sudden shock.
verb (used without object), startled, startling.
to start involuntarily, as from a shock of surprise or alarm.
a sudden shock of surprise, alarm, or the like.
something that startles.

before 1100; Middle English stertlen to rush, caper, equivalent to stert(en) to start + -(e)len -le, or continuing Old English steartlian to kick, struggle

startlement, noun
startler, noun
outstartle, verb (used with object), outstartled, outstartling.
unstartled, adjective

1. scare, frighten, astonish. See shock1. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
startle (ˈstɑːtəl)
to be or cause to be surprised or frightened, esp so as to start involuntarily
[Old English steartlian to stumble; related to Middle High German starzen to strut, Norwegian sterta to strain oneself]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "run to and fro," frequentative of sterten (see start). Sense of "move suddenly in surprise or fear" first recorded 1530. Trans. meaning "frighten suddenly" is from 1595. The word retains more of the original meaning of start (v.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
For others, the clicks startle the bats, allowing the moths time to escape.
Sometimes a sudden shift in color can be used to startle potential predators or
  threaten intruders.
Startle reactions may be simply the effect of social factors.
He tries the horn to startle the bird out of landing, but it's not working.
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