in·​ci·​den·​tal | \ ˌin(t)-sə-ˈden-tᵊl How to pronounce incidental (audio) \

Definition of incidental

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

There were so many penalties called, even on incidental helmet-first contact, that some players feared the game was being ruined. Bill Pennington, The Seattle Times, "Where was the NFL’s new helmet-contact rules on Bradley McDougald’s punishing hit on Raiders’ Amari Cooper?," 15 Oct. 2018 Elizabeth Tang, a legal fellow with the National Women’s Law Center, said incidental contact implies the encounter is unavoidable. Debbie Truong, Washington Post, "Teen says Virginia school failed to keep her safe from alleged attacker," 18 June 2018 But nobody can ever accuse Messi of letting his country down, and his penalty miss was an incidental moment in an otherwise legendary career., "Peru's World Cup Journey: Part 2 - Setback in Saransk as History Weighs Heavy on Christian Cueva," 19 June 2018 Accidents can result in a continuous mental replay of a traumatic event, strengthening and extending incidental associations with every replay. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "The Mail," 24 Mar. 2018 In fact, Sams says a lower-cost revision of the traditional Xbox One S, with some incidental features removed, is also planned for sometime next year. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Report: Cheaper, disc-free Xbox One option coming next year," 16 Nov. 2018 Not all job lead services make sense for all freelancers, and even the most incidental business expenses add up quickly. Michelle Goodman, The Seattle Times, "Should you pay for freelance job opportunities?," 4 Sep. 2018 These features sound incidental, but each of them operates like a speed bump, slowing the algorithm down, and giving humans a chance to intervene. James Vincent, The Verge, "DeepMind’s AI can detect over 50 eye diseases as accurately as a doctor," 13 Aug. 2018 But the development of Pullman’s character wasn’t just incidental, as per what’s promised by his return to his hometown in season two. Karen Han, Vox, "The Sinner is the rare murder mystery that doesn’t care whodunnit. Instead, it asks, “Why?”," 31 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That includes tuition, room and board and books, plus a cost of attendance stipend to cover incidentals such as travel. Ralph D. Russo, The Seattle Times, "NCAA goes back to court, defending its amateurism rules," 3 Sep. 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of incidental


1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1707, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incidental

Share incidental

Statistics for incidental

Last Updated

28 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incidental

The first known use of incidental was in 1644

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce incidental (audio) \

Kids Definition of incidental

: happening as an unimportant part of something else incidental expenses


in·​ci·​den·​tal | \ ˌin-sə-ˈdent-ᵊl How to pronounce incidental (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 reflect, repel, echo, or resound

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!