in·​ci·​dent | \ ˈin(t)-sə-dənt How to pronounce incident (audio) , -ˌdent \

Definition of incident

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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



Definition of incident (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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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

Examples of incident in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun At the heart of the incident is confusion over the law which limits conversations about race and history in schools. Ashley Killough, CNN, 15 Oct. 2021 In the face of the incident, this group of young women has chosen to use their voices and their platform to speak out against these issues. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, 14 Oct. 2021 After the shock of the incident wore off, Hamilton contacted researchers at the University of Western Ontario. Maria Pasquini,, 14 Oct. 2021 An initial investigation of the incident in 2014 found that the officers were under trained, and had no intent to harm Cochran, resulting in no charges against the security guards by Cooper. Miriam Marini, Detroit Free Press, 14 Oct. 2021 The resident asked for special attention in the neighborhood as a result of the incident. Thomas Jewell, cleveland, 14 Oct. 2021 Details of the incident were not available from court because the arrest was made on site and not by warrant. Christine Dempsey,, 14 Oct. 2021 The father and son duo had left their car about 40 meters (44 yards) from the scene of the incident. Farai Mutsaka, ajc, 14 Oct. 2021 Shortly after the fire broke out, dramatic videos of the incident were posted on social media. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 13 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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.,, 20 Feb. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of incident


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incident


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

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Time Traveler for incident

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

17 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incident.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for incident



English Language Learners Definition of incident

: an unexpected and usually unpleasant thing that happens
: an event or disagreement that is likely to cause serious problems in relations between countries


in·​ci·​dent | \ ˈin-sə-dənt How to pronounce incident (audio) \

Kids Definition of incident

: an often unimportant happening that may form a part of a larger event

Choose the Right Synonym for incident

incident, occurrence, and event mean something that happens. incident is used for something that is brief and unimportant. Except for one incident, the trip was fun. occurrence may be used for something that is not planned or expected. Such occurrences can't be predicted. event is often used of something that is important. They discussed the big events of last year.


in·​ci·​dent | \ ˈin(t)-səd-ənt, -sə-ˌdent How to pronounce incident (audio) \

Medical Definition of incident

: falling or striking on something incident light rays incident radiation

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in·​ci·​dent | \ ˈin-sə-dənt, -ˌdənt How to pronounce incident (audio) \

Legal Definition of incident

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Legal Definition of incident (Entry 2 of 2)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on incident

Nglish: Translation of incident for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of incident for Arabic Speakers


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