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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 startled
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Aggy turned with a startled defiance, but at sight of Quinn's face she recoiled.

    Peak and Prairie Anna Fuller
  • She had not seen the boy for two months, and the change in him startled her.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • In a few minutes they were startled by an explosive “Caramba!”

    The Gilded Man Clifford Smyth
  • Out of the tail of his eye he could see that the rest of the Council were startled.

    The Trail Book Mary Austin
  • She lifted her face then, startled by her own audacity, and said, "Want to see me do it?"

    The Lost Wagon James Arthur Kjelgaard
British Dictionary definitions for startled


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 startled



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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