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

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Other Words from accidental

Adjective

accidentalness \ ˌak-​sə-​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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Away from the headlines, urban shootings, suicides, domestic violence, and accidental gunfire plague communities around the country on a daily basis. Fortune, "Why I’m Joining Other CEOs in Urging the Senate to Take On Gun Violence," 12 Sep. 2019 Though both the Russians survived, a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, later died of accidental contact with the nerve agent. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "‘Traitors must be punished’: Vladimir Putin’s stark warnings to Russians who defect to the West," 11 Sep. 2019 Residents were exposed when there were accidental releases of contaminants when Rocky Flats was in operation. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Too soon to endorse; Level the playing field with taxes and regulation; Don’t stir Rocky Flats; Out of control (9/10/19)," 11 Sep. 2019 Shanti is the accidental founder of a movement that is now well over 200,000 families strong. Amanda Loudin, The Know, "New parents join a real movement for their babies and themselves: Hiking," 10 Sep. 2019 There has been no plausible accidental injury to explain his many injuries. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "'Our whole community is devastated’: Toddler dies 3 days after suffering head injuries," 9 Sep. 2019 Most accidental presidents begin working immediately to secure reelection in their own right. Jay Cost, National Review, "In Praise of Gerald Ford," 9 Sep. 2019 The actors joked about the modern-day water bottle that had made an accidental cameo in the last episode. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, "Superfans: A Love Story," 9 Sep. 2019 Sonstegard says that when Acceligen found out about the accidental edit in March, the company’s executives informed CTNBio, the Comissão Técnica Nacional de Biossegurança in Brazil, and ended their plans for the experimental hornless herd. Megan Molteni, WIRED, "Brazil's Plans for Gene-Edited Cows Got Scrapped—Here's Why," 26 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Sayers said Musser died of blunt force trauma and ruled the death accidental. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Man killed while cutting down trees, death ruled accidental," 18 Aug. 2019 The state medical examiner later ruled his death accidental. Alison Knezevich, baltimoresun.com, "Baltimore County agrees to pay $1.1M to settle lawsuit alleging excessive police force in death of 21-year-old," 5 Aug. 2019 The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death accidental. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Boy, 8, dies when father accidentally runs him over with farming equipment," 27 July 2019 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

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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Statistics for accidental

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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 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.

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Comments on accidental

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