in·​ci·​den·​tal | \ˌin(t)-sə-ˈden-tᵊl \

Definition of incidental 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : being likely to ensue as a chance or minor consequence social obligations incidental to the job

b : minor sense 1

2 : occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation



Definition of incidental (Entry 2 of 2)

1 incidentals plural : minor items (as of expense) that are not particularized

2 : something that is incidental

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Incidental vs. Accidental


One sense of incidental is defined as "occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation ," and one of the most common meanings of accidental in modern use is "occurring unexpectedly or by chance," so it is not surprising that the two words are sometimes confused. However, in almost all settings in which they will be found today, these words have distinct meanings. Incidental is most often used in the sense "being likely to ensue as a chance or minor consequence," or "minor" (as in "there were some incidental expenses that I paid myself").

Examples of incidental in a Sentence


You may incur some incidental expenses on the trip. an incidental part of the job He writes incidental music for plays.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Video of the altercation shows only incidental contact between the intern and Mr. Acosta before the reporter gave up the microphone. Byron Tau, WSJ, "White House Restores Full Access for CNN’s Acosta," 19 Nov. 2018 An incidental bump down the stretch involving winner Monomoy Girl caused Wonder Gadot jockey John Velazquez to file an objection. John Cherwa,, "Monomoy Girl a half-length winner over Wonder Gadot at Kentucky Oaks," 5 May 2018 Yet many are now happy to pocket an incidental increase in state tax revenues. Editorial Board, WSJ, "Democrats Cash In on Tax Reform," 25 May 2018 God of War's Norse fantasy environments are also a highlight, full of incidental detail and bold use of lighting and color that make seeing what's coming next a constant motivator. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "God of War (2018): How to reinvent a beloved series without ruining what works," 12 Apr. 2018 Winner will be solely responsible for all meals, incidental expenses, tips and gratuities, income and other taxes, ground transportation, and all other costs and expenses not otherwise specified herein. Woman's Day, "Royalton Punta Cana, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Getaway Giveaway," 3 Oct. 2017 But for a long time the user was incidental, a weakness to exploit. Josie Duffy Rice, The Atlantic, "The Gospel According to Pusha T," 12 July 2018 Alan Yendle Woodway, Texas The court chose not to consider the constitutional issue under the 10th Amendment but only the Commerce Clause, which is incidental to the issue in making its decision. WSJ, "Spare Us From the Internet Sales Tax Tsunami," 2 July 2018 Photography, per se, is largely incidental to the show. Mark Feeney,, "A different lens for Winslow Homer," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Contingencies, playground equipment relocation, testing and incidentals bring the total to $613,000. Hillary Davis,, "City to pay $360,000 toward Newport Elementary field improvements," 2 Mar. 2018 Available in matte black and gray, or champagne pink and black, the backpacks feature a 15-inch padded laptop sleeve, padded back, and front zipper pocket for your wallet, keys, and other incidentals. Necee Regis,, "Here, there, and everywhere," 10 July 2018 The AmEx Platinum gives an annual $200 credit for the airline of your choice to cover incidentals like bag fees, drinks, and meals on board. Ryan Craggs, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Travel Credit Card," 2 July 2018 Winner may be required to present a valid credit card upon check-in at hotels to cover incidentals that are not included in the Grand Prize. CNN, "OFFICIAL RULES AND REGULATIONS," 12 June 2018 The company has paid for incidentals associated with the trip, including a hotel room in Dearborn, meals and a tuxedo for the auto show's formal charity ball. Phoebe Wall Howard,, "'Bullitt' Mustang, the auto world's lost treasure of 50 years, prepares for world tour," 6 Feb. 2018 After paying for utilities, medical bills, laundry and other incidentals, she’s left with about $200 a month for food, clothing and anything else that pops up. Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Trump team’s plan to cut rent aid would devastate the poor, advocates say," 27 Apr. 2018 In August, all members will also begin earning points for food and beverage purchases and qualifying incidentals, rather than just the room rate. Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY, "Marriott Rewards merger with Starwood, Ritz-Carlton programs brings mixed reviews," 20 Apr. 2018 Beyond hotel stays, city employees in Surprise and other metro Phoenix cities receive daily allowances to cover meals and incidentals when traveling. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "Surprise city travel includes four-star hotel stays," 16 Apr. 2018

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


1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1707, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for incidental

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incidental

The first known use of incidental was in 1644

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More Definitions for incidental



English Language Learners Definition of incidental

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: happening as a minor part or result of something else



English Language Learners Definition of incidental (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that happens as a minor part or result of something else : something that is incidental


in·​ci·​den·​tal | \ˌin-sə-ˈden-tᵊl \

Kids Definition of incidental

: happening as an unimportant part of something else incidental expenses


in·​ci·​den·​tal | \ˌin-sə-ˈdent-ᵊl \

Legal Definition of incidental 

1 : subordinate or secondary in importance or position incidental benefits

2 : incident

3 : occurring by chance or in isolation incidental use of a person's image

Other Words from incidental

incidentally adverb

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Comments on incidental

What made you want to look up incidental? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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