from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To infer (something) without sufficiently conclusive evidence.
  • intransitive v. To make a guess or conjecture.
  • n. An idea or opinion based on insufficiently conclusive evidence; a conjecture.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Thought, imagination, or conjecture, which may be based upon feeble or scanty evidence; suspicion; guess; as, surmises of jealousy or of envy.
  • n. Reflection; thought; posit.
  • v. To conjecture, to opine or to posit with contestable premises.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A thought, imagination, or conjecture, which is based upon feeble or scanty evidence; suspicion; guess.
  • n. Reflection; thought.
  • transitive v. To imagine without certain knowledge; to infer on slight grounds; to suppose, conjecture, or suspect; to guess.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To accuse; make a charge against; also, to bring forward as an accusation.
  • In old English law, to suggest; allege.
  • To infer or guess upon slight evidence; conjecture; suspect.
  • Synonyms Imagine, Guess, etc. (see conjecture); fancy, apprehend, mistrust.
  • n. The thought that something may be, of which, however, there is no certain or strong evidence; speculation; conjecture.
  • n. Thought; reflection.
  • n. Synonyms See surmise, verb, and inference.
  • n. In old English law, a suggestion. See suggestion, 5.
  • n. In ecclesiastical law, an allegation in a libel.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence
  • v. imagine to be the case or true or probable
  • v. infer from incomplete evidence


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English surmisen, to accuse, from Old French surmise, feminine past participle of surmettre : sur-, sur- + mettre, to put (from Latin mittere).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French surmis, past participle of surmetre, surmettre ("to accuse"), from sur- ("upon") + metre ("to put").



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  • This usage ain't in my 'lect.

    June 26, 2009

  • I've just found this used with an object, a construction I've never seen before. Valid examples on Google for "surmise the situation" include:

    Without corollary information, the reader is left to surmise the situation with only limited knowledge.

    Of course, without seeing xrays I can only surmise the situation from your description.

    Slowly opening his eyes for the first time, John looks over at Jane and begins to surmise the situation.

    Other, irrelevant instances are errors for 'summarise', or where the verb is followed by a that-less content clause ('We surmise the situation might have its roots in situations like this'), or chance juxtapositions ('As you may surmise, the situation is muddled.').

    The OED does give one clear example of 'surmise' followed by an object (from 1817: 'The Governor-General surmised a circumstance, which always seems to have animated him to peculiar severity.'), and one where the object is a fused relative, which to me sounds much more natural, as it's like a clause ('Whatever the Jewish nation might surmise or know concerning a future life').

    June 25, 2009