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

Definition of fortuitous

  1. 1 :  occurring by chance

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





Discussion 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 1 and 2a, is virtually unnoticed by the critics. Sense 1 is the only sense commonly used in negative constructions.

Examples of fortuitous in a sentence

  1. … 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

  2. … 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

  3. 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

  4. His presence there was entirely fortuitous.

  5. You could not have arrived at a more fortuitous time.

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.

Origin and Etymology of fortuitous

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

First Known Use: 1653

Synonym Discussion of 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.

FORTUITOUS Defined for English Language Learners


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

Definition of fortuitous for English Language Learners

  • : happening by chance

  • : having or showing good luck

Seen and Heard

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a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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