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Language tip of the week: speechless

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of language tips to accompany the Real Vocabulary theme we look at how you can expand your vocabulary in English by using different words and expressions instead of core vocabulary items.

This set of language tips will explore the words and phrases we use to talk about feelings. This week’s tip looks at adjectives and phrases that mean feeling so surprised you cannot speak:

speechless so surprised, especially by something shocking or annoying, that you do not know what to say:

  • Harry was speechless with surprise.
  • For once in her life she was speechless.

dumbfounded or dumbstruck so surprised that you do not know what to say or do:

  • People are pretty much dumbfounded by what is happening here. 
  • She stared at him, dumbstruck, wondering if she was dreaming.

You can also say that someone is struck dumb:

  • The children were amazed, and in fact almost seemed struck dumb.

lost for words so surprised that you do not know what to say:

  • She fell silent, lost for words.

Did you know that Macmillan Dictionary includes a full thesaurus? This page lists more ways to say ‘feeling surprised or shocked‘.

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About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter


  • Thanks for your comment, Neeru. We don’t send out updates, but you can check out updates on our website or follow us on Facebook (MacDictionary) and Twitter (@MacDictionary).

  • I somehow think “lost for words” is not accurate. Of course I could be wrong. I always thought the phrase was “at a LOSS of words.”

  • Thanks for your comment, James. I had never come across ‘at a loss of words’ and was slightly surprised to find a few hundred citations for it in our very large corpus of English. There are, however, several thousand citations for ‘at a loss for words’. ‘Lost for words’ is much more frequent than the first phrase, though less frequent than the second. Some dictionaries mark it ‘mainly British’ so perhaps that is why you were not familiar with it.

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