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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Frequently Asked Questions About serendipity

Are serendipity and fate related?

Serendipity and fate differ in meaning in a number of important ways. The former is defined as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for," and while fate likewise may be concerned with "something that happens to a person," it need not (in fact, often is not) be pleasant. Among the meanings of fate are "an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end," "final outcome," and " the circumstances that befall someone or something."

What is the difference between serendipity and luck?

There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as "a force that brings good fortune or adversity," "success," and "the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual"). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.

"How is serendipity used in other parts of speech?"

Serendipity is a noun, coined in the middle of the 18th century by author Horace Walpole (he took it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip). The adjective form is serendipitous, and the adverb is serendipitously. A serendipitist is "one who finds valuable or agreeable things not sought for."

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 There was serendipity in the discovery, says Emmanuel Fort, a physicist at ESPCI Paris who led the research. Edd Gent, Science | AAAS, "Watch levitating upside-down boats flip the law of buoyancy," 2 Sep. 2020 There’s none of the hallway serendipity, nor the togetherness of the lunch table. Arianne Cohen,, "Q&A: Guy Raz of How I Built This on Doing Business in a Pandemic," 31 Aug. 2020 That a Yank would come along decades later to buy the house felt like serendipity to the family. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "Buffett’s big bet on Japan sends global stocks higher," 31 Aug. 2020 These moments of serendipity are becoming increasingly common, said Gil Wizen, one of the entomologists who discovered the unique behavior of the Epomis beetles. Cara Giaimo, New York Times, "When Bugs Crawl Up the Food Chain," 10 Aug. 2020 Even Aina was surprised by the serendipity of it all. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Jackie Aina Knows We're All Obsessed With Candles," 10 Aug. 2020 The serendipity that happens when actors are on location. Nina Metz,, "In a world of virtual sets, that movie or TV show, like ‘The Mandalorian’, might not be where you think — or anywhere at all," 5 Aug. 2020 Occasionally funny, mostly implausible, but filled with wonderful food, dancing in the moonlight, serendipity and tears, this novel is a joyous and poignant read. Ciara Geraghty, Star Tribune, "Reviews: 'Rules of the Road,' by Ciara Geraghty," 2 Aug. 2020 Gáspár and Rieke are not the first to suggest that Fomalhaut b is just a cloud of dust, but the serendipity of observing something so fleeting and rare has some other astronomers wondering if the explanation is too incredible to be true. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "‘Disappearing’ Exoplanet Might Not Have Been a Planet After All," 22 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for serendipity

Time Traveler

The first known use of serendipity was in 1754

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Last Updated

6 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Serendipity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for serendipity


How to pronounce serendipity (audio)

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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Nglish: Translation of serendipity for Spanish Speakers

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