for·​tu·​itous fȯr-ˈtü-ə-təs How to pronounce fortuitous (audio)
: occurring by chance
: fortunate, lucky
from a cost standpoint, the company's timing is fortuitousBusiness Week
: coming or happening by a lucky chance
belted down the stairs, and there was a fortuitous trainDoris Lessing
fortuitously adverb
fortuitousness noun
Usage of Fortuitous

Sense 2a has been influenced in meaning by fortunate. It has been in standard if not elevated use for some 70 years, but is still disdained by some critics. Sense 2b, a blend of senses 1 and 2a, is virtually unnoticed by the critics. Sense 1 is the only sense commonly used in negative constructions.

Did you know?

For its first 250 years, until the early part of the 20th century, fortuitous meant one thing only: “happening by chance.” This was no accident; its Latin forebear, fortuitus, shares the same ancient root as fors, the Latin word for “chance.” But the fact that fortuitous sounds like a blend of fortunate and felicitous (“happily suited to an occasion”) likely led to a second meaning of “fortunate, lucky,” with the seeds of the newer sense perhaps planted by writers applying overtones of good fortune to something that is a random occurrence. The “lucky” use has been disparaged by critics, but it is now well established. Irregardless (cough), employing this sense in sterner company may be considered chancy.

Choose the Right Synonym for fortuitous

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

Examples of fortuitous in a Sentence

… the intensification of competition on the job market has only exacerbated our class anxiety, as hiring seems all the more uncertain if not fortuitous. Jeffrey J. Williams, College English, November 2003
… he is a brilliant candidate not despite his anti-intellectualism but because of it. He has stumbled upon a fortuitous moment in which the political culture, tired of wonks and pointy-heads and ideologues, yearns instead for a candidate unburdened by, or even hostile to, ideas. Jonathan Chait, New Republic, 20 Dec. 1999
Her $170, 000 bid on what is now Matanzas Creek's vineyard was accepted. The south-facing slope was a fortuitous find … its worth more than 10 times as much today. Jeff Morgan, Wine Spectator, 15 May 1996
His presence there was entirely fortuitous. You could not have arrived at a more fortuitous time.
Recent Examples on the Web Architects made the aesthetic choice to raise the city on a platform, allowing the pods to operate one level below in the shade — a fortuitous choice, because their batteries would have struggled in the UAE’s heat. Chico Harlan, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2023 For those invested in the fight against climate change, the timing of this week’s meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is fortuitous. Lucas Thompson, NBC News, 14 Nov. 2023 Others, however, have been propelled to stardom by a fortuitous encounter with world-class managers. Oleksandr Usyk, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 That fortuitous alignment explains why the distant galaxy was bright enough for Hubble to see in the first place. WIRED, 5 Nov. 2023 Readers may quibble with some of Jiles’s plotting — a pair of fortuitous meetings, a deflating final twist — but there can be no quibbling with the dramatic tension in her rendering of the chaotic, wretchedly despoiled landscape Chenneville encounters. Alida Becker, New York Times, 15 Sep. 2023 And the fact that that one library in all of the USA happened to be 30 minutes away was just fortuitous. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, 23 Oct. 2023 One For the Heart was far more fortuitous for Waits than Coppola – the score won an Oscar, and on the set Waits became close with his future wife, Kathleen Brennan, who was an assistant story editor. Al Shipley, Spin, 3 Oct. 2023 Speaking of advanced bookings, what’s the backstory on your fortuitous Hillary Clinton interview the night the Fulton County election racketeering indictments against Trump and others came down? Mikey O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fortuitous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin fortuitus; akin to Latin fort-, fors chance — more at fortune entry 1

First Known Use

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fortuitous was in 1653


Dictionary Entries Near fortuitous

Cite this Entry

“Fortuitous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: occurring by chance
fortuitously adverb
fortuitousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on fortuitous

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