Meaning & definition of ‘Startle’


Startle is a verb and an adjective (Startled). It means to suddenly surprise someone or be slightly surprised or shocked.  You can add Startle to your vocabulary and  and use it as a synonym for other verbs such as alarm, scare, shock, surprise, frighten, make jump. Using synonyms will give you more confidence speaking English and you will also sound more natural. Learning common expressions such as You startled me will also help you understand native English speakers.

‘Startle’ in a sentence

// The explosion startled the neighbours

// She was startled by his question

// We didn’t mean to startle you

// I opened the garage door and was startled to find my cat there

// You startled me

// The kids were startled awake by the storm

// Are you easily startled by sudden noises?


Origin of ‘Startle’

Startle derives from the Old English word ‘Steartlian’ (Kick/Struggle). This early meaning changed to ‘move quickly’ and then in the late 1500s vocabulary came to mean ‘cause to react with fear’.

Frequency of You startled me

As you can see here in Google’s Ngram viewer, You startled me is an expression that has been part of English vocabulary for a long time!



startle graph

Pronunciation of  ‘Startle’

In British English, Startle /ˈstɑː(r)t(ə)l/ is generally heard with the ‘T’ sound

In General American English, Startle /ˈstɑː(r)d(ə)l/ is generally heard with a ‘D’ sound


Video 1: Startled (British pronunciation)


Video 2: Startled (US pronunciation)


We will be looking at  more differences between British and American English in future posts. In the meantime, below  are some more words where the middle ‘T’ is pronounced as a fast a ‘D’ in US English.


  • better
  • water
  • hated
  • city
  • bottom
  • native
  • party
  • notice


Whichever way you pronounce the middle ‘T’ in words from your vocabulary is up to you. Either way will make you sound more like a native speaker and, consequently, give you more confidence.

As we saw earlier you will also gain in confidence if you  put into practice newly learned vocabulary like Startle. To help you remember this common expression , here’s a short video:


You startled me! 


Look out for our forthcoming posts for more useful tips about the English language and useful vocabulary that can make you sound more natural and feel more confident!