accidental

adjective
ac·​ci·​den·​tal | \ ˌak-sə-ˈden-tᵊl How to pronounce accidental (audio) \

Definition of accidental

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : occurring unexpectedly or by chance an accidental discovery Their meeting was purely accidental.
b : happening without intent or through carelessness and often with unfortunate results The death was ruled accidental.
2 : arising from extrinsic causes : incidental, nonessential
3 of a bird : appearing outside its normal geographic range, migration route, or season

accidental

noun

Definition of accidental (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a nonessential property
2a music : a note foreign to a key indicated by a signature
b : a prefixed sign indicating an accidental
3 : a bird found outside its normal geographic range, migration route, or season : vagrant

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from accidental

Adjective

accidentally \ ˌak-​sə-​ˈdent-​lē How to pronounce accidentally (audio) , -​ˈden-​tᵊl-​ē \ or less commonly accidently \ -​ˈdent-​lē How to pronounce accidently (audio) \ adverb
accidentalness \ -​ˈden-​tᵊl-​nəs How to pronounce accidentalness (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for accidental

Adjective

accidental, fortuitous, casual, contingent mean not amenable to planning or prediction. accidental stresses chance. any resemblance to actual persons is entirely accidental fortuitous so strongly suggests chance that it often connotes entire absence of cause. a series of fortuitous events casual stresses lack of real or apparent premeditation or intent. a casual encounter with a stranger contingent suggests possibility of happening but stresses uncertainty and dependence on other future events for existence or occurrence. the contingent effects of the proposed law

Incidental vs. Accidental

One sense of incidental is defined as "occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation ," and one of the most common meanings of accidental in modern use is "occurring unexpectedly or by chance," so it is not surprising that the two words are sometimes confused. However, in almost all settings in which they will be found today, these words have distinct meanings. Incidental is most often used in the sense "being likely to ensue as a chance or minor consequence," or "minor" (as in "there were some incidental expenses that I paid myself").

Examples of accidental in a Sentence

Adjective

an accidental discovery of oil The timing of the announcement was purely accidental. The death was ruled accidental.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

People close to his family insist that the death was accidental, the result of a lethal interaction between alcohol and medication. Brendan I. Koerner, WIRED, "The Young and the Reckless," 17 Apr. 2018 Bollywood superstar Sridevi died of accidental drowning in a bathtub after losing consciousness, police in Dubai ruled following a post-mortem report. Flora Carr, Time, "Bollywood Superstar Sridevi's Death Ruled Accidental Drowning, Police Close Investigation," 27 Feb. 2018 The death was ruled accidental by the Los Angeles police and coroner. Eleanor Hildebrandt, Popular Mechanics, "The True Story of the Lost Sci-Fi Movie "Brainstorm," Natalie Wood’s Last Film," 21 Dec. 2018 The pilot escaped, but his five passengers died from accidental drowning. Ellie Kaufman, CNN, "Doors-off helicopters tours were all the rage. Not anymore," 18 Mar. 2018 Nearly 1,700 children under 18 died from accidental gun deaths from 2001 to 2017 and more than 33,000 were injured, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dave Collins, The Seattle Times, "Teen’s death spurs federal, state safe gun storage bills," 22 Jan. 2019 Ballard tracks a burglar who stole three early Warhol prints in the aftermath of their owner’s accidental death. Tom Nolan, WSJ, "Mysteries: Blowing the Dust Off a Cold Case," 25 Oct. 2018 Bob and Bert later get five years for the accidental death of two graduate students. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Quantum observers with knowledge of quantum mechanics break reality," 19 Sep. 2018 The machines — which are used by many Americans during power outages after severe storms — emit more carbon monoxide than cars and cause about 70 accidental deaths a year. Juliet Eilperin, chicagotribune.com, "Emails reveal close rapport between top EPA officials and those they regulate," 1 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Oregon Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death accidental. Gillian Flaccus, Fox News, "DA: Missing woman died instantly in jump from mom's car," 27 Sep. 2018 The Hamilton County Coroner ruled the death accidental. Cameron Knight, Cincinnati.com, "Source: Rear seat of minivan flipped, pinned Seven Hills student Kyle Plush," 12 Apr. 2018 The medical examiner’s office ruled his death accidental. Jessica Anderson, baltimoresun.com, "Family of Baltimore County man who died days after encounter with police files lawsuit," 18 Sep. 2017 The medical examiner’s office ruled Stokely’s death accidental. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "Children left alone at day care where toddler died in pool, investigation finds," 31 Aug. 2017 A concurrent investigation by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tice was killed by blunt-force trauma to his head and ruled the death accidental. The Denver Post, The Mercury News, "California yoga mogul’s mysterious death: Trevor Tice’s drunken last hours detailed," 27 Jan. 2017 The medical examiner has previously ruled the death accidental and said alcohol was a factor. Carrie Wells, baltimoresun.com, "Ocean City police conclude investigation into death of Texas woman," 24 Aug. 2017 Police spent several months investigating the incident before closing the case, ruling the death accidental. Dave Altimari, courant.com, "Mother Of Teen Who Fell From Top Of Hartford Bar Doubts Daughter Was Alone On Roof," 4 Aug. 2017 A concurrent investigation by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tice was killed by blunt-force trauma to his head and ruled the death accidental. The Denver Post, The Mercury News, "California yoga mogul’s mysterious death: Trevor Tice’s drunken last hours detailed," 27 Jan. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of accidental

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for accidental

Adjective

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French accidentel, borrowed from Late Latin accidentālis, from Latin accident-, accidens accident + -ālis -al entry 1

Noun

Middle English, borrowed from Medieval Latin accidentālis, noun derivative of Late Latin accidentālis accidental entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about accidental

Statistics for accidental

Last Updated

14 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for accidental

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for accidental

accidental

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of accidental

: happening in a way that is not planned or intended : happening by accident : happening as an accident

accidental

adjective
ac·​ci·​den·​tal | \ ˌak-sə-ˈden-tᵊl How to pronounce accidental (audio) \

Kids Definition of accidental

1 : happening by chance or unexpectedly an accidental discovery
2 : not happening or done on purpose an accidental shooting

Other Words from accidental

accidentally adverb I broke it accidentally.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on accidental

What made you want to look up accidental? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to move or proceed with twists and turns

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!