Intermediate+ Word of the Day: surge

surge (noun, verb) /sɜrdʒ/ LISTEN

A wave, surging towards the shore.

A surge is a strong and forward movement, like a wave, and also a sudden and strong burst, generally speaking or, specifically, a burst of electrical current or voltage. As a verb, to surge means ‘to move forward or rise like a wave’ and, figuratively, ‘to rise, as if by a swelling force or a strong feeling.’ In electricity, when we are talking about current and voltage, to surge means ‘to increase suddenly.’

Example sentences

  • At the end of the game, the spectators got up from their seats and there was a surge towards the exits.
  • The tired runner felt a surge of joy as she crossed the finish line.
  • You need to protect your computer against electrical surges.
  • The morning commuters surged into the station.
  • Hope surged in the breasts of the scientists as it began to look as though the experiment would be a success.
  • The lightning strike caused the voltage to surge.

In pop culture

You can listen to Abba’s song “Slipping Through My Fingers” here:

Listen out for the lyric “I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness.”

Did you know?

A storm surge is a sudden and abnormal rise in water levels caused by a storm. These surges can cause flooding in coastal areas. This short video clip explains in more detail what a storm surge is:

Don't confuse it with

Don’t confuse it with serge, which sounds the same, but is a type of fabric.


Surge dates back to the late 15th century and originally meant ‘fountain or stream.’ The noun probably came into English from a French source, such as the Middle French sourge-, the stem of the verb sourdre (to rise or swell). It can be traced back to the Latin surgere, a contraction of surrigere (‘to rise, arise, get up, mount up or ascend,’ as well as ‘to attack’), formed by the prefix su(b)-, ‘to surge from below,’ and regere, ‘to keep straight or guide.’ We can follow this verb one step further, to the Proto-Indo-European root reg– (‘to move or to direct in a straight line,’ and figuratively, ‘to rule’). The meaning ‘a high, rolling swell of water’ first appeared in the early 16th century, as did the figurative sense ‘a rising up of emotion.’ The verb, originally meaning ‘rise and fall,’ dates back to the early 16th century. It may have come from the noun, or from the Middle French verb surgir. The meaning ‘to rise high and roll with force’ appeared in the mid-16th century.

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