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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Given this low rate of success, the researchers theorize that the water dragon may have simply experienced accidental parthenogenesis. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "The National Zoo’s Female Asian Water Dragon Successfully Reproduced Without a Male," 6 June 2019 Last year, her former boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller died of an accidental drug overdose. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "Review: Ariana Grande's efficient pop buzzes through United Center," 5 June 2019 Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration warned diabetics against building their own artificial pancreas system to help control blood sugar levels after a patient using one suffered an accidental insulin overdose. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "Hacking diabetes: People break into insulin pumps as an alternative to costly innovations," 5 June 2019 Kiefer Sutherland’s still an accidental president in the third season of the series, picked up by Netflix after ABC canceled it. Ellen Gray, https://www.inquirer.com, "Summer TV: 'Big Little Lies,’ ‘Stranger Things,’ a Kevin Bacon drama, and much more," 5 June 2019 Preliminary findings show Tharp died of accidental drowning, pending toxicology results, Dykes added. Post-tribune Staff, Post-Tribune, "Missing Gary man's body identified in Porter County," 4 June 2019 Lady Lawrence came from a family with long Indian traditions, but her own life on the subcontinent was quite accidental. David Gilmour, WSJ, "Five Best: David Gilmour on Memoirs of British India," 22 Feb. 2019 Trump’s flights of language are bizarre but not entirely accidental. Christine Emba, BostonGlobe.com, "President Trump’s ‘Space Force’ brings back ‘separate but equal’," 20 June 2018 Courts can exclude evidence of previous behavior that was never charged, but prosecutors want this information included to show that the Taser shot fired at Grimes was intentional, not accidental. John Wisely, Detroit Free Press, "Prosecutors: Trooper charged with ATV murder used Taser to punish people," 7 June 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.

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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

9 Jun 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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