ser·​en·​dip·​i·​ty | \ ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē How to pronounce serendipity (audio) \

Definition of serendipity

: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for also : an instance of this

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Where does serendipity come from?

In the mid-1700s, English author Horace Walpole stumbled upon an interesting tidbit of information while researching a coat of arms. In a letter to his friend Horace Mann he wrote: "This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavor to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called 'The Three Princes of Serendip': as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of…." Walpole's memory of the tale (which, as it turns out, was not quite accurate) gave serendipity the meaning it retains to this day.

Examples of serendipity in a Sentence

As they leapfrog from South Africa to Singapore in search of local delicacies, the authors prove again and again that serendipity is the traveler's strongest ally: many of their most memorable meals issue from the hands of generous strangers … — Sarah Karnasiewicz, Saveur, June/July 2008 If reporters fail to keep these files, they seldom luck into bigger stories. Their investigative work typically happens only by design—analyzing the news, for instance—not by serendipity. — Michael J. Bugeja, Editor & Publisher, 13 Jan. 2003 A week earlier, the doctor would have had no recourse but to make an incision in the baby's skin to get to a vein—a precarious option now, since time was running short and it would take nearly half an hour to assemble the necessary equipment. But in an extraordinary bit of serendipity, Hanson had attended a seminar on emergency medical care for children just a week before. — David Ruben, Parenting, December/January 1996 They found each other by pure serendipity.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The serendipity of Jang’s SFMOMA rediscovery seems fitting, given his playful, offbeat approach to taking pictures. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "A Rediscovered Archive from California in the Seventies," 24 Aug. 2019 Their partnership began out of near-complete serendipity, said Katie Vester, employment director at Itineris. Christine Condon,, "Sisters, entrepreneurs expand body care business to new home in Howard County," 11 June 2019 The discovery of Sur Ridge, now the coral observatory site where Dr. Barry and Dr. DeVogelaere are doing their transplant work, was the result of serendipity and a bet between friends. Amanda Paulson, The Christian Science Monitor, "No light, no problem: The improbable wonders of deep-sea coral," 2 Aug. 2019 But none of us had ventured farther north than the Upper East and West sides, until circumstance and serendipity conspired to send us to parts of the Big Apple we’d never seen. Elizabeth Chang, Twin Cities, "Harlem’s 125th Street is the gateway to new corners of Manhattan," 3 Aug. 2019 One of the great benefits of education is the serendipity. Eric Johnson, Vox, "“The $300 textbook is dead,” says the CEO of textbook maker Pearson," 2 Aug. 2019 The twisted serendipity of our national project is that sometimes moments align in tragic concert but still point to hulking truths. Jason Parham, WIRED, "Depth of Field: The Hollow Poetry of the Eric Garner Decision," 18 July 2019 Seated in the family room of her son’s southwest suburban home, Aida shared her story, one that is sprinkled with serendipity. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "For 73 years, a woman kept her wedding dress made from her husband’s WWII parachute. Now it will be displayed in a museum.," 7 July 2019 Such serendipity may be possible only if classical music exists on services alongside pop, hop-hop, country, Latin and the rest. Ben Sisario, New York Times, "In Streaming Age, Classical Music Gets Lost in the Metadata," 23 June 2019

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

1754, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for serendipity

from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip

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Statistics for serendipity

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for serendipity

The first known use of serendipity was in 1754

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More Definitions for serendipity



English Language Learners Definition of serendipity

literary : luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for

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Spanish Central: Translation of serendipity

Nglish: Translation of serendipity for Spanish Speakers

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to make a temporary encampment

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