gobsmacked vs. flabbergasted

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  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, I think whatever difference there is may be in the eye of the beholder! My take on it is:

    Flabbergasted means amazed/astonished in general. Gobsmacked (a British English expression) means much the same but with a bias towards a scenario in which you’d expected the opposite.



    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm pretty sure I still use flabbergasted - must be my age showing;).

    The main difference to me is that gobsmacked is slang, and flabbergasted ... isn't.


    English - England
    I see a distinction:
    Flabbergasted = taken aback in such a way as to leave one amazed and speechless. There is no particular emphasis on the speed of the reaction.
    Gobsmacked - this is far more literal - as if someone had struck you across the face with the flat of their hand. It is a state of astonished and sudden shock.


    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Actually, Lexico (Oxford Dictionaries) lists both as 'informal', gobsmacked (= utterly astonished; astounded) dating from the 1980s, while flabbergast (= greatly surprised or astonished) is late 18th century.

    I tend to hear and use 'gobsmacked' a lot these days, but it's been a while since I heard anyone say they were 'flabbergasted'.


    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    "Gobsmacked" would never be understood (except by context) in the U.S.
    Uncle Jack (#4), don't give up on "flabbergasted" so easily. The Google Ngram Viewer finds it at an all-time high, in published books.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think the opposite must be true, if you find it less acceptable than I do! :D
    Actually, I find gobsmacked perfectly acceptable - I'd just use it in different contexts from flabbergasted.

    Maybe we all draw the line between "slang" and "not-slang" differently (though I do have the OED on my side :cool:). It's just that I can happily picture The Queen saying "flabbergasted" ~ but not "gobsmacked".


    Senior Member
    English UK
    (Paul, I think the potential offensiveness there lay in the word's meaning rather than its register. But I sense a red herring dragging us off piste...)

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    ‘Flabbergasted’ is still a word I hear and use myself. ‘Gobsmacked‘ is definitely British. It’s a harmless virus brought out by English migrants that’s slowly catching on here. ‘Astounded’ or ‘dumbfounded’ are a lot more common.
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    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In the parts of the US where I have lived, "flabbergasted" was common, though it was informal and old-fashioned.

    However "gobsmacked" was not used at all. So I agree, it is British.


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Google's Ngrams for flabbergasted and gobsmacked in British books, going up to 2008.

    Gobsmacked is clearly on the rise, but interestingly hasn't overshot flabbergasted.


    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    In US English, “flabbergasted” is familiar, though not particularly common. “gobsmacked” is unknown unless you’ve learned it as a British English word.


    Senior Member
    British English
    I see a distinction
    As do I. :thumbsup:
    I was flabbergasted that anybody in his right mind might consider Jeremy Corbyn a potential prime minister (a period of months spent astonished). I was not gobsmacked by that. I was at first gobsmacked (an immediate reaction) by his post-election claim that his party's manifesto was "historically important", but then I recalled his lack of self-criticism and the feeling went away.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I never use "gobsmacked", because "gob" (mouth) is vulgar.

    I wouldn't have used it anyway in the OP's quotation, where there is reason for surprise but not for a strong emotional reaction. I like Andy's fine distinction.:thumbsup:


    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Gobsmacked" is almost unheard of in the USA. There is a high probability that absent significant context that the typical American would not understand the word.

    I've seen it written in a few books by UK writers and we have a British expat in the offices and I sometimes use "gobsmacked" with her, but nowhere else.
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