"Even the smallest surmise of her husband dying scared her to death"
Is the word surmise used correctly in this sentence? Maybe "assumption" would fit better?
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
To surmise involves making an educated guess.
After listening to the world renown evolutionary biologist's lecture, I surmised that no form of theism was part of his perspective or repertoire.
The auditor in this sentence, based on hearing perhaps just one lecture by the biologist, makes an educated guess that the biologist ascribes no legitimacy to the belief in a supernatural being called god (or God). Is his surmise accurate? Possibly. Only by questioning the lecturer in this regard could the surmise give way to a confirmed conclusion.
I therefore surmise that the word surmise is not a good fit for your sentence. A more appropriate word would be inkling, which means essentially
A slight hint or indication.
A slight understanding or vague idea or notion.
Moreover, the word smallest should probably give way to the word slightest. The consequent sentence would therefore be:
"Even the slightest inkling of her husband dying scared her to death"
"Even the slightest inkling of her husband's death virtually scared her to death."
Notice I italicized the second appearance of the word her in order to soften, as it were, the second appearance of the word death. The word virtually also reinforces the idea that her fear was serious but hardly fatal!