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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 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, (please specify |part=I, II, III or IV), page 98:
      [] 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], chapter 1, in Sense and Sensibility [], volume (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] C[harles] Roworth, [], and published by T[homas] Egerton, [], →OCLC, page 14:
      At these words, Marianne’s eyes expressed the astonishment, which her lips could not utter.
    • 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery, chapter 3, in Anne of Green Gables[2], Boston: L.C. Page, page 41:
      Marilla’s astonishment could not have been greater if Matthew had expressed a predilection for standing on his head.
    • 2004, Andrea Levy, chapter 33, in Small Island[3], London: Review, page 330:
      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,[4]
      To find Ned Silverton among the habitual frequenters of Mrs. Hatch’s drawing-room was one of Lily’s first astonishments;
    • 1964, Roald Dahl, chapter 18, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Puffin, published 1998, page 83:
      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
  4. (obsolete) Loss of mental faculties, inability to think or use one's senses.
    Synonym: stupor
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Psalms 60:3:
      Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
    • 1678, Aphra Behn, chapter 2, in The Lives of Sundry Notorious Villains[6], London: for the author, page 30:
      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, “Book I, Canto III”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, page 35-36:
      [] where of his cruell rage
      Nigh dead with feare, and faint astonishment,
      Shee found them both in darkesome corner pent;
    • 1651, Thomas Hobbes, chapter 46, in Leviathan[7], London: Andrew Crooke, page 374:
      [] 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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