Or anything along the lines of that (unpleasant surprise amounts to about the same thing). As in,

He/She found an unwelcome surprise waiting for them.

Unwelcome/unpleasant surprise would work in this context, but I feel I have used it too often, and need a change.

Thank you!

  • 4
    You might be unnecessarily boxing yourself into a corner by asking for a noun. Particularly, to identify something that might be metaphorically "waiting for them" (within which context the otherwise perfectly reasonable bolt from the blue and rude awakening wouldn't work very well). But I think this is really "writing advice" with no clearly identifiable "correct" answer (a bombshell might work, though). Aug 22, 2016 at 17:22
  • Sorry, I overlooked that you'd suggested bombshell before posting. It seems worthy of being an answer though. While single-word-requests don't usually have "correct" answers, they're still welcome at ESE though, yes? Aug 22, 2016 at 18:48
  • There are several options (I think @Kris may have meant "start") but nothing generally useful. Each is good in a specific context.
    – itsbruce
    Aug 25, 2016 at 8:56
  • Start. >a sudden movement of surprise or alarm. "she awoke with a start" synonyms: jerk, twitch, flinch, wince, spasm, convulsion, jump "she awoke with a start"
    – Kris
    Aug 25, 2016 at 10:53
  • Thanks @itsbruce I deleted the other post misspell start with an h as second letter is a slang expression that is ironic as an answer to this question lol
    – Kris
    Aug 25, 2016 at 10:56

3 Answers 3


Consider shock (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary):

[countable, usually singular, uncountable] a strong feeling of surprise as a result of something happening, especially something unpleasant; the event that causes this feeling

As you have a number of “unwelcome surprises” in your text I would reserve shock for the really bad ones. Here are some examples of actual use (my boldface):

Prokofiev had a shock waiting for him in Chicago regarding Oranges. After arriving in town on 31 October he wrote to Johnson requesting a meeting to settle their disagreement "peacefully." The letter he received in return on 2 November did not contain anything about an appointment, rather it bore the news that two weeks ago a telegram had been sent to him in France stating that Oranges had been canceled permanently.
[Stephen D. Press, Prokofiev’s Ballets for Diaghilev, 2006.]

Our return to England was homecoming in many ways, but there was a shock waiting for me when we reached the hotel at Rye. I was handed a cablegram: “Don't come home. I am in good hands. Mother.” The rest of the day was frantic. Heart Attack? Stroke? Paralysis?
[Doris McCarthy, Doris McCarthy: My Life, 2006.]



a sudden and often unpleasant piece of news:

works well (he/she found a bombshell awaiting him/her), as do many other synonyms of shock (such as stunner, jolt, whammy), However, as Jacinto noted, they are best reserved for larger surprises.

Other words explaining the emotions or style of disrupt may be more helpful to exchange out more regular surprises, such as snafus, complications, or strangeness.


Vicissitude may or may not work with what you’re trying to express. This is a bit after the fact but thought it may help you or someone looking.

changes that happen at different times during the life or development of someone or something, especially those that result in conditions being worse:

Cambridge online

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