ac·​ci·​dent | \ ˈak-sə-dənt How to pronounce accident (audio) , -ˌdent How to pronounce accident (audio) , ˈaks-dənt \

Definition of accident

1a : an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance Their meeting was an accident.
b : lack of intention or necessity : chance They met by accident rather than by design.
2a : an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance was involved in a traffic accident
b medical : an unexpected and medically important bodily event especially when injurious a cerebrovascular accident
c law : an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought
d US, informal used euphemistically to refer to an uncontrolled or involuntary act or instance of urination or defecation (as by a baby or a pet)The puppy had an accident on the rug.
3 : a nonessential property or quality of an entity or circumstance the accident of nationality

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Synonyms for accident


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Frequently Asked Questions About accident

What is the difference between accidental and incidental?

Accidental describes what was not planned or intended. It means "happening by accident" or "happening as an accident," as in "an accidental discovery" and "an accidental injury." Incidental typically means "happening as a minor part or result of something else," as in "a chapter that is incidental to the novel's plot." For more information read the full article.

Do you say 'on accident' or 'by accident'?

While both "by accident" and "on accident" are used, "by accident" is far more common.

What does 'accident waiting to happen' mean?

The phrase "an accident waiting to happen" refers to a person or thing that is dangerous or unsafe. For example, a very clumsy person and a rickety ladder might both be referred to as "an accident waiting to happen."

Examples of accident in a Sentence

He was injured in an accident at work. The accident happened when her car slid on a patch of ice. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the accident. Their meeting was an accident. She says that her pregnancy was an accident.
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Recent Examples on the Web This is not the first time India has seen an accident of this kind. Manveena Suri And Amy Woodyatt, CNN, "A young Indian woman died when her hair became trapped in a go-kart wheel," 9 Oct. 2020 Sandra Avendano-Rojas, 22, of the 200 block of North Westmore Avenue, Lombard, was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and operating an uninsured motor vehicle at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at Route 83 and North Avenue. Chuck Fieldman,, "Elmhurst police blotter: Melrose Park, Homewood men face weapons charges in separate incidents," 9 Oct. 2020 Because accident victims were unlikely to be repeat clients, the firm depended on attracting a vast pool of potential plaintiffs. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Stephen Barnes, Partner in Law Firm With Cellino, Dies at 61," 8 Oct. 2020 In a post on their Instagram, the San Francisco Fire Department announced that firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez died Wednesday following the accident at the Division of Training. Joelle Goldstein,, "'Loved and Respected' San Francisco Firefighter, 42, Dies After Accident During Training Drill," 8 Oct. 2020 The purportedly unflappable Merkel, panicked by the political consequences of popular panic over nuclear power after the Fukushima accident, has been overseeing the phasing out nuclear power stations ever since. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "The Capital Note: Yield Curve, Corporations & Climate," 8 Oct. 2020 Alexander doesn't have a formal culinary background, but dove in to teaching herself a few months after a serious bike accident in 2015. Sharyn Jackson, Star Tribune, "Eat Street sandwich shop Zettas spins off taco takeout business, Yeah Yeah Taco," 7 Oct. 2020 Duke’s 890-megawatt reactor near Crystal River at the Gulf of Mexico has been out of commission since 2009, when a construction accident crippled the containment building. Kevin Spear,, "Duke nuclear plant demolition timeline cut from half-century to 7 years," 7 Oct. 2020 After one of the bikers pulled out a gun, a bystander — who didn’t see the accident and didn’t know what was happening — pulled out his own gun in an effort to intervene, Cutler said. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Crash in Taylorsville leads to shots fired, two people hospitalized," 7 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'accident.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of accident

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for accident

Middle English, "happening, nonessential property, diseased condition, disturbance (of the mind)," borrowed from Anglo-French, "irregularity, incident, symptom," borrowed from Latin accident-, accidens "chance event, contingent attribute" (translating Greek symbebēkós), from present participle of accidere "to fall down, impinge on, be heard, happen," from ad- ad- + cadere "to fall" — more at chance entry 1

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Time Traveler for accident

Time Traveler

The first known use of accident was in the 14th century

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Statistics for accident

Last Updated

14 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Accident.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for accident


How to pronounce accident (audio) How to pronounce accident (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of accident

: a sudden event (such as a crash) that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury
: an event that is not planned or intended : an event that occurs by chance


ac·​ci·​dent | \ ˈak-sə-dənt How to pronounce accident (audio) , -sə-ˌdent \

Kids Definition of accident

1 : something that happens by chance or from unknown causes and that often causes injury or damage : mishap an automobile accident
2 : chance entry 1 sense 1 We met by accident.


ac·​ci·​dent | \ ˈak-səd-ənt How to pronounce accident (audio) , -sə-ˌdent; ˈaks-dənt How to pronounce accident (audio) \

Medical Definition of accident

1 : an unfortunate event resulting from carelessness, unawareness, ignorance, or a combination of causes
2 : an unexpected bodily event of medical importance especially when injurious a cerebrovascular accident
3 : an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought

Other Words from accident

accidental \ ˌak-​sə-​ˈdent-​ᵊl How to pronounce accidental (audio) \ adjective
accidentally \ -​ˈdent-​lē, -​ᵊl-​ē How to pronounce accidentally (audio) \ also accidently \ -​ˈdent-​lē How to pronounce accidently (audio) \ adverb

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Legal Definition of accident

: an unexpected usually sudden event that occurs without intent or volition although sometimes through carelessness, unawareness, ignorance, or a combination of causes and that produces an unfortunate result (as an injury) for which the affected party may be entitled to relief under the law or to compensation under an insurance policy — see also unavoidable accident

Note: The term accident has been held to include intentional acts (such as an assault and battery) under workers' compensation laws.

Other Words from accident

accidental adjective
accidentally also accidently adverb

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