incident

1 of 2

noun

in·​ci·​dent ˈin(t)-sə-dənt How to pronounce incident (audio)
-ˌdent
1
a
: an occurrence of an action or situation that is a separate unit of experience : happening
b
: an accompanying minor occurrence or condition : concomitant
2
: an action likely to lead to grave consequences especially in diplomatic matters
a serious border incident
3
: something dependent on or subordinate to something else of greater or principal importance

incident

2 of 2

adjective

1
: occurring or likely to occur especially as a minor consequence or accompaniment
the confusion incident to moving day
2
: dependent on or relating to another thing in law
3
: falling or striking on something
incident light rays
Choose the Right Synonym for incident

occurrence, event, incident, episode, circumstance mean something that happens or takes place.

occurrence may apply to a happening without intent, volition, or plan.

an encounter that was a chance occurrence

event usually implies an occurrence of some importance and frequently one having antecedent cause.

the events following the assassination

incident suggests an occurrence of brief duration or secondary importance.

a minor wartime incident

episode stresses the distinctiveness or apartness of an incident.

a brief romantic episode in a life devoted to work

circumstance implies a specific detail attending an action or event as part of its setting or background.

couldn't recall the exact circumstances

Example Sentences

Noun We just want to put that embarrassing incident behind us. Two people were shot yesterday in two separate incidents. Aside from a few isolated incidents, the crowd was well-behaved. Many such incidents go unreported. The bombing caused an international incident.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Although the report doesn't include every single attack incident, the results also show that humans in higher-income nations encounter predators very differently compared to lower-income ones. Camille Fine, USA TODAY, 5 Feb. 2023 The incident began when a vehicle was allegedly stolen from a parking lot at 27 Warren St. at about 2:20 p.m., police said. Breanne Kovatch, BostonGlobe.com, 4 Feb. 2023 Department officials have said that the remark was caught on the body camera of another officer who happened to be walking past and was discovered during a subsequent review of video from the incident. Libor Janystaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 4 Feb. 2023 Ebrahimi also commented on the recent incident at Iran’s Fajr Film Festival, with several notable directors, including Alice Diop and the Dardennes Brothers, demanding for their films to be pulled from the fest. Marta Balaga, Variety, 4 Feb. 2023 Especially since this has got to be as embarrassing to China as the U-2 incident was to Eisenhower. David A. Andelman, CNN, 4 Feb. 2023 Smoke and flames then extended into the actual building so the firefighters upgraded the incident to a work fire, Rothecker said. Gloria Casas, Chicago Tribune, 4 Feb. 2023 To some, the balloon is a metaphor for the fragility of the U.S.-China relationship, with the incident only deepening mistrust between the two sides. Lily Kuo, Washington Post, 4 Feb. 2023 To some, the balloon is a metaphor for the fragility of the U.S.-China relationship, with the incident only deepening mistrust between the two sides. Lily Kuo, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Feb. 2023
Adjective
At Black Hat, the researchers argued that this strategy should also be applied to cyber-incident investigations. Kim Key, PCMAG, 11 Aug. 2022 The timing will be miserably co-incident, a rare moment in economic history, the economist’s equivalent of a solar eclipse: higher inflation, higher interest rates, slumping economic output. Gerard Baker, WSJ, 25 July 2022 If a pre-incident crew had ever been assigned to a ski area, this was the first time Lannon had heard of it. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 Sep. 2021 Finally, the modern cloud improves auditing capabilities and provides logs and analytics for any post-incident analysis and compliance. Vipin Jain, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2021 In addition, the panel recommends the City of Aurora overhaul its post-incident review process. Erin Donaghue, CBS News, 23 Feb. 2021 An Oregon Department of Transportation incident response worker was hit by a car while answering a call on the roadway around 7:30 p.m., according to Don Hamilton, an agency spokesman. Everton Bailey Jr., OregonLive.com, 20 Feb. 2018 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incident.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin incident-, incidens, from Latin, present participle of incidere to fall into, from in- + cadere to fall — more at chance

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of incident was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near incident

Cite this Entry

“Incident.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incident. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

incident

1 of 2 noun
in·​ci·​dent ˈin(t)-səd-ənt How to pronounce incident (audio)
-sə-ˌdent
: an often unimportant happening that may form part of a larger event

incident

2 of 2 adjective
1
2
: falling or striking on something
incident light rays

Medical Definition

incident

adjective
: falling or striking on something
incident light rays
incident radiation

Legal Definition

incident

1 of 2 noun
in·​ci·​dent ˈin-sə-dənt, -ˌdənt How to pronounce incident (audio)
1
: a distinct occurrence or event
an incident of sexual harassment
2
: a subordinate, dependent, or consequential element
the search was a legitimate incident to the arrest
child support and other incidents of divorce

incident

2 of 2 adjective
: having a subordinate or dependent relation to something specified
a search incident to arrest

More from Merriam-Webster on incident

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