Surprise Idioms

Get ready to jump out of your linguistic comfort zone with our delightful article on “Surprise Idioms”! Ever been so astonished that you could hardly believe your ears? Or maybe you’ve been caught off guard by a friend’s unexpected visit? From being “taken aback” to “blowing someone’s mind,” our language is full of fun and whimsical ways to express astonishment. So, if you’re eager to add some pizzazz to your vocabulary and learn the stories behind these expressions, you’re in for a treat.

What Are Surprise Idioms?

In our colorful English language, we often encounter phrases that aren’t meant to be taken literally. These are called idioms, and they’re symbolic expressions that represent a concept or idea. Among the various types we use, surprise idioms stand out for their ability to convey the suddenness or shock of an unexpected event. We use these idioms to articulate our reactions when life throws us a curveball, without having to articulate the full emotional experience.

Here are a few categories of surprise idioms, along with some vivid examples:

  • Unanticipated Events: When something happens without warning, we might say it came “Out of the Blue” or occurred “All of a Sudden.”
  • Shock or Astonishment: To express extreme surprise, idioms like “My jaw dropped” or “To be blown away” aptly describe our stunned reactions.
  • Catching Someone Unaware: If caught unprepared, we might admit we were “Caught Off Guard” or humorously confess to being “Caught with our Pants Down.”

20 Surprise Idioms in English: Common Phrases Used

Surprise Idioms with Meaning and Example Sentences

Idioms Meanings and Example Sentences
Knock someone’s socks off To impress or amaze someone greatly.

Example: Her stunning performance knocked everyone’s socks off.

Drop a bombshell To reveal shocking news.

Example: He dropped a bombshell when he announced his resignation.

Spring something on someone To surprise someone with something unexpected.

Example: She sprung it on us when she showed up with a puppy.

Throw a curveball To present an unexpected challenge or surprise.

Example: The new policy threw a curveball at the team.

Bowl someone over To greatly impress or astonish someone.

Example: His proposal was so innovative, it completely bowled the committee over.

Come as a surprise To happen unexpectedly.

Example: The news of the merger came as a surprise to everyone in the company.

Stop someone in their tracks To cause someone to stop abruptly.

Example: The stunning view stopped us in our tracks.

Leave someone gobsmacked To utterly astonish or shock someone.

Example: The plot twist in the movie left the audience gobsmacked.

Hit someone like a ton of bricks To affect someone with a sudden forceful impact.

Example: The news of his passing hit her like a ton of bricks.

Pop-out of the woodwork To appear unexpectedly.

Example: Old friends popped out of the woodwork when they heard about his good fortune.

Throw someone for a loop To confuse or fluster someone.

Example: The unexpected question threw her for a loop during the interview.

A bolt from the blue Something completely unexpected.

Example: Her decision to move abroad was a bolt from the blue.

Jump out of one’s skin To react with a sudden involuntary movement due to surprise or fear.

Example: She jumped out of her skin when the fire alarm went off unexpectedly.

Catch someone napping To find someone unprepared or not paying attention.

Example: The pop quiz caught all the students napping.

Common Surprise Idioms

Catch someone off guard

This idiom means to surprise someone by doing something that they were not expecting or prepared for.

  • In Conversations: When someone asks a question or makes a comment that someone else did not anticipate.

Example: “The sudden question about her past caught her off guard during the interview.”

  • In Sports: When an opponent makes an unexpected move that catches a player unprepared.

Example: “The striker caught the defense off guard with a quick turn and scored a goal.”

  • In Business: When a company launches a surprise product or service that rivals were not expecting.

Example: “The competitor’s aggressive move into the market caught us off guard.”

Out of the blue

This idiom is used when something happens suddenly and unexpectedly, without any warning or indication beforehand.

  • In Personal News: When someone receives unexpected news or contact from someone they haven’t heard from in a long time.

Example: “He called me out of the blue after years of silence.”

  • In Events: When an event occurs without any prior notice or expectation.

Example: “The storm came out of the blue and caught everyone by surprise.”

  • In Decisions: When someone makes a sudden decision that is surprising to others.

Example: “She decided to move to another country out of the blue.”

Blow someone’s mind

This idiom is used to describe something extremely impressive, surprising, or hard to believe.

  • In Entertainment: When a movie, show, or performance is so good that it leaves the audience in awe.

Example: “The finale of the magic show completely blew my mind.”

  • In Technology: When a new technology or invention is groundbreaking or revolutionary.

Example: “The latest advancements in virtual reality technology will blow your mind.”

  • In Achievements: When someone accomplishes something remarkable or unexpected.

Example: “His ability to complete the marathon in record time blew everyone’s mind.”

Like a bolt out of the blue

Similar to “bolt from the blue,” this idiom also means something happening very unexpectedly and suddenly, often with a significant impact.

  • In Personal Life: When an unforeseen event dramatically changes someone’s circumstances.

Example: “Her lottery win came like a bolt out of the blue and changed her life overnight.”

  • In Business: When a company receives an unexpected takeover offer.

Example: “The merger proposal came like a bolt out of the blue and took the industry by surprise.”

  • In Natural Phenomena: When a natural event occurs without any prior warning.

Example: “The earthquake struck like a bolt out of the blue, leaving the city in shock.”


This idiom means being shocked or overwhelmed to the point of being temporarily incapacitated or speechless.

  • In Reaction to News: When reacting to news that is hard to comprehend or accept.

Example: “The community was stunned by the sudden closure of the local hospital.”

  • In Personal Interactions: When someone’s actions or words are completely unexpected.

Example: “I was stunned when he abruptly stood up and left in the middle of our conversation.”

  • In Spectacular Performances: When witnessing an exceptional performance or display.

Example: “The audience was left stunned by the acrobat’s death-defying routine.”