for·​tu·​itous | \ fȯr-ˈtü-ə-təs, -ˈtyü-, fər-\

Definition of fortuitous

1 : occurring by chance
2a : fortunate, lucky from a cost standpoint, the company's timing is fortuitousBusiness Week
b : coming or happening by a lucky chance belted down the stairs, and there was a fortuitous train— Doris Lessing

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Other Words from fortuitous

fortuitously adverb
fortuitousness noun

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

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 some 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, derives from the same ancient root as the Latin word for "chance," which is "fors." But the fact that "fortuitous" sounds like a blend of "fortunate" and "felicitous" (meaning "happily suited to an occasion") may have been what ultimately led to a second meaning: "fortunate." That use has been disparaged by critics, but it is now well established. Perhaps the seeds of the newer sense were planted by earlier writers applying overtones of good fortune to something that is a chance occurrence. In fact, today we quite often apply "fortuitous" to something that is a chance occurrence but has a favorable result.

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Photo: Long Wei/Xinhua/Zuma Press Next year would be a fortuitous time to ease birth restrictions, since an uptick is expected anyway. WSJ, "Stamp of Approval for Larger Families in China? Postage Prognosticators See a Sign," 7 Aug. 2018 The merits of this move are debatable, but the timing is fortuitous—finishing up just as the U.S. is seeing a surge in freight and shipping costs. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Low Sugar Innovations Sweeten Coke’s Growth," 25 July 2018 This could solve itself thanks to fortuitous timing. Carolyn Hax, The Seattle Times, "How can parents protect child, conceived with donor egg, from toxic relatives?," 30 July 2018 Short of a fortuitous gust of wind, the only way to pull it off is by putting an ample serving of spin on the ball. Robbie Gonzalez, WIRED, "The Physics of the One Goal You Won't See at the World Cup," 15 June 2018 On a day lost to history, some fortuitous humans found a glistening meteorite, mostly iron and nickel, that had barreled through the atmosphere and crashed into the ground. Jonathan Schifman, Popular Mechanics, "The Entire History of Steel," 9 July 2018 The pairing of the two friends as colleagues proved fortuitous. Bryan Marquard,, "Morris Halle, who helped found MIT’s linguistics program, dies at 94," 7 Apr. 2018 In a piece of fortuitous timing, Mr. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, had released a plan hours before Mr. Kaloyeros was convicted on Thursday, outlining some of his proposals for increasing transparency in state contracting. New York Times, "Cuomo’s Rivals Look to Tie Him to Corruption Convictions of Top Aides," 13 July 2018 Thanks to LeBron, a slow market for bigs, and fortuitous timing, the Pelicans have made one of the more shrewd signings of free agency. Rohan Nadkarni,, "Grades: Pelicans Appear Past DeMarcus Cousins With Julius Randle Signing," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fortuitous.' 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 fortuitous

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fortuitous

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

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Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for fortuitous

The first known use of fortuitous was in 1653

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English Language Learners Definition of fortuitous

: happening by chance

: having or showing good luck

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