: an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance
was involved in a traffic accident
medical: an unexpected and medically important bodily event especially when injurious
a cerebrovascular accident
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
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.
: a nonessential property or quality of an entity or circumstance
the accident of nationality
Frequently Asked Questions
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."
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.
Recent Examples on the WebThe actor, best known for playing the superhero Hawkeye over the last 12 years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was involved in a snowplow accident at his home in Reno, Nevada on New Year's Day.—Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 21 Jan. 2023 Despite the fatal shooting being ruled an accident by the New Mexico chief medical investigator, prosecutors believe a crime was committed.—Aya Elamroussi, CNN, 21 Jan. 2023 Body camera footage of Keenan Anderson as police responded to a traffic accident in Los Angeles.—Alicia Victoria Lozano, NBC News, 21 Jan. 2023 Renner's latest Instagram post comes about after the actor returned to his Nevada home for the first time after his accident earlier this week.—Nicholas Rice, Peoplemag, 21 Jan. 2023 Seven people were hospitalized following a vehicle accident in Pembroke Park Thursday night.—Shira Moolten, Sun Sentinel, 20 Jan. 2023 The incident occurred after officers responded to a multicar accident at a busy intersection in Venice.—Richard Wintonstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 20 Jan. 2023 Conveniently for us, the University of Washington scholars used accident coordinates and some basic weather math to calculate exactly when the sun would have risen or set at each location.—Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, 20 Jan. 2023 Following a devastating traffic accident, young student and athlete Allan (Jason Beghe) is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.—Declan Gallagher, EW.com, 19 Jan. 2023 See More
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.
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
: 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
The term accident has been held to include intentional acts (such as an assault and battery) under workers' compensation laws.