Taken aback

Taken aback

Meaning
  • Shocked
  • Surprised
Origin

In the days of sailing-ships, if the wind unexpectedly whipped the huge sails back against the masts, the ship was taken aback, that is, its progress was abruptly halted. This could happen either through faulty steering or a swift change in wind direction. The shock involved relates now to a person’s reaction when suddenly stopped short by a piece of news or a surprising event.

Example Sentences

A short distance down the unfrequented lane, the Prime Ministers car was suddenly held up by a band of masked men. The chauffeur, momentarily taken aback, jammed on the brakes.
- AGATHA CHRISTIE, Poirot Investigates, The Kidnapped Prime Minister, 1925.

'I say, can I help? I'd like to.’ Willie was quite taken aback at being asked.
- MICHELLE MAGORIAN, Goodnight Mr. Tom, 1981.

He wasted no time with social niceties, asking her immediately how many times she had tried to commit suicide. She was taken aback, but her reply was equally forthright: 'Four or five times.'
- ANDREWM ORTON, Diana: Her True Story, 1992.

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