take aback

World English Dictionary
take aback
 
vb
(tr, adverb) to astonish or disconcert

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

take aback

Surprise, shock, as in He was taken aback by her caustic remark. This idiom comes from nautical terminology of the mid-1700s, when be taken aback referred to the stalling of a ship caused by a wind shift that made the sails lay back against the masts. Its figurative use was first recorded in 1829.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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