I saw this link - When is the correct situation to use 案外 or 意外? It taught me a new word (案外) and explained its difference from 意外 well.

But it's other words that have me confused.

意外 and 驚くべき. Both mean surprising. When would each be used? What is the difference in meaning?

Also ブクリシタ (not sure how to spell it) - I'm told this is only used in spoken Japanese and never in written Japanese... is it dialect? Seems unusual that it would be never written at all. How does this one enter the mix?

  • The thing you have as ブクリシタ is actually びっくりした. It is pretty colloquial, but not dialectal as far as I know. Of course, it has a written form, though you wouldn't see it much outside dialogue. びっくりする is a verb, so びっくりした is a sentence by itself: "That surprised me" or something. 意外 and 驚くべき are used as adjectives (i.e. not interchangeable w/ びっくりする), but I don't know how to articulate the difference between them.
    – senshin
    Jun 23, 2014 at 0:33
  • I agree with senshin. It's not dialect. I've never seen it in formal writing, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's never written. Probably if I were changing it to academic writing or to an essay, I would use 驚くべき.
    – virmaior
    Jun 23, 2014 at 1:42

3 Answers 3


I think these are in many cases semantically (not grammatically) interchangeable, but the nuances are as follows:

  • 案外: (adverb) The situation is not what the speaker originally expected, but he is not very surprised at it. "Rather" is the closest to this.
  • 意外: (na-adjective) The situation is not what the speaker originally expected, and he is more or less surprised. "Unexpected" is closer to this, I think.

One can say 「うわ、意外!」 or 「いがーい!」 after seeing something unexpected, but cannot say 「案外!」.

  • 驚くべき: "Surprising", "Astonishing". It has nothing to do with someone's prior expectation. The degree of surprise is higher than the other two. (It's almost 連体詞 to me, but I'm not sure)

この料理は案外おいしい。 This dish is more delicious than I had expected.
この料理は意外においしい。 This dish is unexpectedly delicious.
この料理は驚くべきおいしさだ。 This dish is surprisingly delicious.

意外な訪問者 An unexpected visitor
驚くべき訪問者 A surprising visitor

  • びっくりする: (verb) Be surprised. informal, but not a dialect.

この料理はびっくりするほどおいしい。 This dish is surprisingly delicious.
びっくりするような訪問者 A surprising visitor

  • Is it okay to use 驚いた instead of びっくりした in spoken Japanese? I once used used 驚いた and my teacher (non-native) corrected it to びっくりした.
    – Steel
    Jun 23, 2014 at 3:09
  • 2
    Yes you can always use 驚いた in spoken Japanese: it's no literary or poetic. But I think the large majority of people use 「わ! びっくりした!」 when they were startled by a big noise, etc.
    – naruto
    Jun 23, 2014 at 3:35

予想外 is another word, close in meaning to 案外, that was infamously used in describing the 3/11 earthquake (and also in Softbank commercials).

  • Out of curiosity, could you elaborate on how 予想外 was "infamously used" re: the 3/11 earthquake?
    – senshin
    Jun 23, 2014 at 3:57
  • 1
    To me, 予想外【よそうがい】, "beyond expectation," is closer to 意外 but sounds even stronger than 意外. And I think the infamous word which was often used in relation to the earthquake is 想定外【そうていがい】.
    – naruto
    Jun 23, 2014 at 15:06

For people of any countries, if they could still say something, it means the context is unexpected but not 100% unprepared surprising. Otherwise, I guess people would just said "ええ"

  • This answer does not really address OP's question, which is about how to use 意外, 驚くべき, and びっくりした correctly.
    – senshin
    Jun 23, 2014 at 3:55
  • Just skimming the title how to say "surprising" in Japanese and talk about it.
    – moiaussi06
    Jun 24, 2014 at 3:33

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