Astonishment, lithograph by Thomas Fairland after W. H. Hunt, c. 1870s


From astonish +‎ -ment.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /əˈstɒnɪʃmənt/
  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈstɑːnɪʃmənt/
  • (file)


astonishment (countable and uncountable, plural astonishments)

  1. The feeling or experience of being astonished; great surprise.
    Synonyms: amazement, stupefaction, wonder, wonderment
    The class looked on in astonishment as their teacher proceeded to tear the pages out of the textbook.
    • 1630, John Milton, “On Shakespear” in Poems of Mr. John Milton, London: Ruth Raworth, 1645 p. 27,[1]
      Thou in our wonder and astonishment
      Hast built thy self a live-long Monument.
    • 1726, Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, London: Benjamin Motte, Volume 2, Part 3, Chapter 7, p. 98,[2]
      [] he dismissed all his Attendants with a turn of his Finger; at which, to my great astonishment, they vanished in an Instant, like Visions in a Dream, when we awake on a sudden.
    • 1811, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, London: for the author, Volume 3, Chapter 1, p. 14,[3]
      At these words, Marianne’s eyes expressed the astonishment, which her lips could not utter.
    • 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, Boston: L.C. Page, Chapter 3, p. 41,[4]
      Marilla’s astonishment could not have been greater if Matthew had expressed a predilection for standing on his head.
    • 2004, Andrea Levy, Small Island, London: Review, Chapter 33, p. 330,[5]
      Imagine my astonishment when, reaching the bustling street, every Englishwoman I look on is also attired in a dowdy housecoat.
  2. Something very surprising.
    Synonyms: marvel, stunner (colloquial)
    • 1905, Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, New York: Scribner, Book 2, Chapter 9, p. 444,[6]
      To find Ned Silverton among the habitual frequenters of Mrs. Hatch’s drawing-room was one of Lily’s first astonishments;
    • 1964, Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Puffin, 1998, Chapter 18, p. 83,[7]
      Everything he had seen so far — the great chocolate river, the waterfall, the huge sucking pipes, the candy meadows, the Oompa-Loompas, the beautiful pink boat, and most of all, Mr. Willy Wonka himself — had been so astonishing that he began to wonder whether there could possibly be any more astonishments left.
  3. (obsolete) Loss of physical sensation; inability to move a part of the body.
    Synonyms: paralysis, numbness
    • 1583, Philip Barrough, The Method of Phisicke, London: Thomas Vautroullier, Book 3, Chapter 37, p. 126,[8]
      [] there followeth astonishment of the leg that is neere, that it can neither be stretched out right, nor he cannot go on his feet.
    • 1634, Philemon Holland (translator), The Historie of the World, London: Adam Islip, Book 29, Chapter 5, p. 363,[9]
      [] whosoever maketh water in the same place where a dog hath newly pissed, so as both vrines be mingled together, shall immediatly find a coldnesse and astonishment in his loines,
  4. (obsolete) Loss of mental faculties, inability to think or use one's senses.
    Synonym: stupor
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Psalm 60.3,[10]
      Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
    • 1678, Aphra Behn, The Lives of Sundry Notorious Villains, London: for the author, Chapter 2, p. 30,[11]
      Upon the Stage he so charmed the people into astonishment with his babble, that he made them buy off amain his Drugs;
  5. (obsolete) Loss of composure or presence of mind.
    Synonyms: consternation, dismay
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, London: William Ponsonby, Book 1, Canto 3, pp. 35-36,[12]
      [] where of his cruell rage
      Nigh dead with feare, and faint astonishment,
      Shee found them both in darkesome corner pent;
    • 1651, Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, London: Andrew Crooke, Chapter 46, p. 374,[13]
      [] as when a man ignorant of the Ceremonies of Court, comming into the presence of a greater Person than he is used to speak to, and stumbling at his entrance, to save himselfe from falling, lets slip his Cloake; to recover his Cloake, lets fall his Hat; and with one disorder after another, discovers his astonishment and rusticity.

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