accidental

adjective
ac·ci·den·tal | \ˌak-sə-ˈden-tᵊl \

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

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Other Words from accidental

Adjective

accidentally \-ˈdent-lē, -ˈden-tᵊl-ē \ or less commonly accidently \-ˈdent-lē \ adverb
accidentalness \-ˈden-tᵊl-nəs \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The Wayne County medical examiner's office ruled Ca'Mya's death an accidental drowning and no charges have been filed, according to MLive. Scott Berson, miamiherald, "Baby stayed home with sitters. Then she fell through a hole and drowned, police say," 11 July 2018 In both cases, the men were respected members of their communities and the deaths of the women were ruled accidental until their bodies were exhumed years later and subsequent autopsies reclassified their deaths as homicides. Fox News, "Jury convicts man of murder in 1973 death of wife," 4 July 2018 No one was injured, and the fire was ruled accidental. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "After theater fire, UWM students prove the show must go on," 25 Apr. 2018 Norberg's 1996 death was ruled accidental by asphyxiation. Megan Cassidy, azcentral, "$7 million settlement approved in Arpaio-era jail death," 7 Mar. 2018 Her death has been ruled accidental by the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office. Elissa Robinson, Detroit Free Press, "Roseville woman, 96, freezes to death on school playground," 3 Jan. 2018 Police did not specify whether the shooting was believed to be accidental and did not release any suspect information, or the child's age. Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle, "Child shot in Acres Homes," 9 July 2018 The structural changes to China’s economy and energy system are not accidental. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Energy shifts could mean China’s carbon emissions are done growing," 5 July 2018 Moscow police said Sunday this risk was already built into World Cup security measures, and the crash was purely accidental. Washington Post, "Russia’s World Cup headache: Keeping it safe, keeping it fun," 17 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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, "Coroner’s report details drunken last hours of CorePower Yoga founder Trevor Tice," 26 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.

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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

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Phrases Related to accidental

accidentally on purpose

Statistics for accidental

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for accidental

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

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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 \

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.

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Comments on accidental

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evasion of direct action or statement

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