What is a common expression in English that a person might say, when one suddenly got shocked by sound? For example, while a woman was walking on the sidewalk in a dark place, she suddenly heard someone yelled at her "DON'T MOVE!". what is likely going to be the first word or phrase that comes out her mouth? And what would you say to the person who yelled at you, if you recognized immediately that the person is your brother or sister.

  • Is this a common word expressing her state or a word she would use? I'm a little confused at the feminine nature you're looking for. The first words that come to mind include yours "shocked" and "startled". Commented May 18, 2011 at 2:25
  • @czh: More context please. Are you looking for something a woman might say when shocked by a sudden loud noise? Or a word to describe the act of surprising a woman in such a way? But I must say - sexist though it may be - I doubt English has special words for either of those contexts, that particularly relate to women. Commented May 18, 2011 at 2:40
  • @FumbleFingers: [censored lewd comment] how I want to say it lol Commented May 18, 2011 at 2:43
  • gender-neutral terms for the act include alarm, frighten, make [her] jump, scare, shock, etc., etc. I don't know (and wouldn't approve) of any specially applicable to women. Commented May 18, 2011 at 2:44
  • 1
    Too many variables here, age, culture, slang, to say the least
    – johnc
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 3:17

2 Answers 2


I think it really depends on the context of the situation. For exactly the situation above, the most natural reaction for me would be to react non-verbally. For example, I would likely jerk my head out of surprise, and then face the person who shouted and examine the context. If I was actually physically startled (heart racing, etc), I might make a nonsense utterance such as "aaaaah!".

  • what would you say to the person who yelled at you, if you recognized immediately that the person is your brother or sister.
    – czh
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 4:40
  • I agree - it would probably be non-verbally, or as you say "aaaah" or some other type of scream that would probably not be language dependent anyway...
    – awe
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 11:25
  • @czk: In answer to your secondary question (what about if you realise the person who startled you is in fact a close friend/relative), the short answer is probably a relieved "Phew!" But why is it important to find words used of or by women? I really don't get that. Commented May 18, 2011 at 17:54
  • @FumbleFingers: After "Phew", would you likely to say "You scared me"? In fact I wanted to know, whether English language distinguishes fears only lasting very short time from fears lasting longer time.
    – czh
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 6:53
  • @czh: It's not really the English language itself that makes the distinction in most cases. It's how exactly we use it. You could say "Phew! I'm glad it's you! You gave me such a fright!" If you get "a fright" it's definitely very short-term fear. Commented May 19, 2011 at 12:16

If I were startled by a sound, I (a woman, also as a former teacher, expected to act like a lady {shudder}) would probably jump, and take in a sharp breath. Then let out a slow "Woah" or similar. If I was startled by a shout (such as your example "Don't move!") I would probably call back "What the F***?" Followed, assuming I knew the person who called out, by a question about why the warning, naming the person. As would many men/gentlemen.

If you're really needing an example of the way a lady-like woman would react (are you writing a novel or story?) then go with the first.

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