Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.


1. Happening without warning; unforeseen: a sudden storm.
2. Happening or done without delay; hasty or immediate: a sudden decision.
3. Characterized by sharp change in elevation; precipitous: a sudden drop in the ocean floor.
all of a sudden
Very quickly and unexpectedly; suddenly.

[Middle English sodain, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *subitānus, from Latin subitāneus, from subitus, from past participle of subīre, to approach stealthily : sub-, secretly; see sub- + īre, to go; see ei- in Indo-European roots.]

sud′den·ly adv.
sud′den·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




  1. Abrupt as a sultry little thunder shower —Amy Leslie
  2. Abruptly as string that snaps beneath the bow —Ernest William Hornung
  3. Abruptly, like a summer rainstorm —Derek Lambert
  4. Abrupt, startling shock, like the slap of a wet towel —Norman Mailer
  5. All at once, like the wind dispersing storm clouds at a single puff —Lawrence Durrell
  6. Appear suddenly as if out of a fold of the air —Iris Murdoch
  7. Arbitrary as a cyclone —Anon
  8. Burst into the room like a bullet crashing through a window —Guy De Maupassant

    See Also: BURST

  9. Didn’t expect it … like a storm on a very fine day —Ivan Turgenev
  10. He was with them as suddenly as a gift, as if an arm had thrust in a bunch of roses or a telegram —Eudora Welty
  11. (A reflex as) immediate as a sneeze —Leigh Allison Wilson

    A common variation: “Sudden as a sneeze.”

  12. Steep as a broom handle —Elizabeth Spencer
  13. Steep as hell’s half acre —George MacDonald Fraser
  14. Stopped all of a sudden, as if he had been shot —William Makepeace Thackeray
  15. Sudden and foolish as that almost silent fart —George Garrett


  16. Sudden as a burst of hiccuping —Anon

    This and the entries that follow typify the simile that develops new twists from conversation to conversation, writer to writer.

  17. Sudden as a dislocated joint slipping back into place —Anon
  18. Sudden as a massacre —Anon
  19. Sudden as a meteor shooting across the sky —Anon
  20. Sudden as an epileptic seizure —Anon
  21. Sudden as a stitch in your side —Anon
  22. Sudden as a summer shower —Anon
  23. Sudden as a tornado swooping down on a small town —Alistair Cooke, Public Television, March 8, 1987

    The comparison referring to the suddenness of the first World War was made during an introduction to an episode in the “Lost Empire” series.

  24. [Call of a jaybird] sudden as conscience —Robert Penn Warren
  25. Sudden as the stopping of breath —Mary Lee Settle
  26. (The end was) sudden, like a foolish play —Karl Shapiro
  27. Suddenly, as a train comes out of a tunnel —Virginia Woolf
  28. Suddenly, like a pair of obscene words, (there appeared on the path two boys) —Truman Capote
  29. Sudden resolutions, like the sudden rise of the mercury in the barometer, indicate little else than the changeableness of the weather —Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare
  30. Sudden, surprising … it is like encountering a pun in a telephone directory —Karl E. Meyer
  31. Too sudden … like the lightning —William Shakespeare
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.Suddenness - the quality of happening with headlong haste or without warningsuddenness - the quality of happening with headlong haste or without warning
haste, hastiness, hurriedness, hurry, precipitation - overly eager speed (and possible carelessness); "he soon regretted his haste"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
skjótleiki; skynding
anî olma


[ˈsʌdnnɪs] N
1. (= speed) → lo repentino
I do wonder at the suddenness of his decisionme sorprende lo repentino or lo súbito de su decisión
it had all happened with terrifying suddennesstodo había ocurrido con una rapidez espantosa
having started suddenly, the pain stops with equal suddennesshabiendo empezado repentinamente, el dolor cesa con la misma rapidez
2. (= unexpectedness) → lo inesperado
the suddenness of his resignationlo inesperado or imprevisto de su dimisión
3. (= abruptness) → brusquedad f
the car came to a halt with a suddenness that sent her jerking forwardel coche se paró con tal brusquedad que la lanzó hacia adelante
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈsʌdənnɪs] n [attack, movement, death, change] → soudaineté f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


nPlötzlichkeit f; (of movement also)Jähheit f, → Abruptheit f
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈsʌdnnɪs] n the suddenness of his death/departurela sua morte/partenza improvvisa
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ˈsadn) adjective
happening etc quickly and unexpectedly. a sudden attack; His decision to get married is rather sudden!; a sudden bend in the road.
ˈsuddenness noun
ˈsuddenly adverb
He suddenly woke up; Suddenly she realized that the stranger had a gun.
all of a sudden
suddenly or unexpectedly. All of a sudden the lights went out.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
Before she could add another word, Lady Montbarry sprang from the sofa with the stealthy suddenness of a cat--seized her by both shoulders-- and shook her with the strength and frenzy of a madwoman.
"Where is she?" asked Zeb, rather bewildered by the suddenness of it.
Just as he came to the park gates the little thing turned toward them; the man, without word or warning, wrenched the creature's head round with such a force and suddenness that he nearly threw it on its haunches.
Aouda was thunderstruck at the suddenness of an event which she could not understand.
I led her thither accordingly, and as soon as the door was closed, she said: "I was never more surprized in my life than by Sir James's arrival, and the suddenness of it requires some apology to you, my dear sister; though to ME, as a mother, it is highly flattering.
But while I talked to Stroeve I was puzzling over the suddenness of the whole affair.
For this fell purpose he had backed the astounded De Vac twice around the hall when, with a clever feint, and backward step, the master of fence drew the King into the position he wanted him, and with the suddenness of lightning, a little twist of his foil sent Henry's weapon clanging across the floor of the armory.
While in San Francisco Halpin Frayser was walking one dark night along the water front of the city, when, with a suddenness that surprised and disconcerted him, he became a sailor.
Her poses were full of grace, and her little black-shod toes twinkled as they shot out and upward with a rapidity and suddenness which were bewildering.
What had happened naturally caused them all to stare; there was too little of the explained, throw out whatever we might, in the suddenness of my colleague's act.
My longing was beyond the power of opposition; I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space.
An ugly-looking man, a hunch-backed human savage to all appearance, squatting in the aperture of one of the dens, would stretch his arms and yawn, showing with startling suddenness scissor-edged incisors and sabre-like canines, keen and brilliant as knives.