an unexpected change or fluctuation; a difficulty or hardship usually beyond one's control
"Ten years is a lifetime in the art world, where the vicissitudes of trends and tastes can befuddle the most experienced." Scarlet Cheng, Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2011
About the Word:
"Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better," wrote British theologian Richard Hooker in the 16th century.
That observation may shed some light on vicissitude, a word that can refer simply to the fact of change, or to an instance of it, but that often refers specifically to hardship or difficulty brought about by change. To survive "the vicissitudes of life" is thus to survive life's ups and downs, with special emphasis on the downs.
Vicissitude is a descendant of the Latin noun vicis, meaning "change" or "alternation," and it has been a part of the English language since the 16th century. In contemporary usage, it most often occurs in the plural.