From Middle English startlen, stertlen, stertyllen (“to rush, stumble along”), from Old English steartlian (“to kick with the foot, struggle, stumble”), equivalent to start + -le. Cognate with Old Norse stirtla (“to hobble, stagger”), Icelandic stirtla (“to straighten up, erect”). Compare also Middle English stertil (“hasty”). More at start.
- (intransitive) To move suddenly, or be excited, on feeling alarm; to start.
- a horse that startles easily
- Why shrinks the soul / Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
- (transitive) To excite by sudden alarm, surprise, or apprehension; to frighten suddenly and not seriously; to alarm; to surprise.
- 1689 (indicated as 1690), [John Locke], An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. […], London: […] Eliz[abeth] Holt, for Thomas Basset, […], OCLC 153628242:
- The supposition, at least, that angels do sometimes assume bodies need not startle us.
- 1896, Joseph Conrad, "An Outcast of the Islands"
- Nothing could startle her, make her scold or make her cry. She did not complain, she did not rebel.
- 1997, R. L. Stine, Say Cheese and Die, Again!:
- The high voice in the night air startled me. Without thinking, I started to run. Then stopped. I spun around, my heart heaving against my chest. And saw a boy. About my age.
- (transitive, obsolete) To deter; to cause to deviate.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Clarendon to this entry?)
startle (plural startles)
- A sudden motion or shock caused by an unexpected alarm, surprise, or apprehension of danger.
- 1845, George Hooker Colton, James Davenport Whelpley, chapter 1, in The American review:
- The figure of a man heaving in sight amidst these wide solitudes, always causes a startle and thrill of expectation and doubt, similar to the feeling produced by the announcement of " a strange sail ahead" on shipboard, during a long voyage.