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[stahr-tl] /ˈstɑr tl/
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.
Origin of startle
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
Related forms
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for startle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In private conversation, he would often startle you with a sentence that was like the striking of a match in a dark room.

    Walking Shadows Alfred Noyes
  • The desire had been strong enough to startle him, to warn him.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
  • It is possible to startle even the secretary of a prayer union into mild profanity.

    Hyacinth George A. Birmingham
  • If the old man made no will, I'll maybe have summat to say as may startle them a gay bit.

  • She was standing with her back to him, and Forrester didn't make a sound, not wanting to startle the Goddess.

    Pagan Passions Gordon Randall Garrett
  • The swiftness of the movement was aggressive enough to startle.

    Under Western Eyes Joseph Conrad
  • Surprised as I was by her statement, yet the truth as thus revealed failed to startle me seriously.

    Gordon Craig Randall Parrish
  • I say I caught myself, but enough had escaped to startle the man.

    The Secret Sharer Joseph Conrad
British Dictionary definitions for startle


to be or cause to be surprised or frightened, esp so as to start involuntarily
Derived Forms
startler, noun
Word Origin
Old English steartlian to stumble; related to Middle High German starzen to strut, Norwegian sterta to strain oneself
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for startle

c.1300, "run to and fro," frequentative of sterten (see start (v.)). Sense of "move suddenly in surprise or fear" first recorded 1520s. Transitive meaning "frighten suddenly" is from 1590s. The word retains more of the original meaning of start (v.). Related: Startled; startling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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