ser·​en·​dip·​i·​ty | \ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē \

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 ciders are made in Oswego, Ill., another example of serendipity made possible by the tight-knit farm community. Kathy Flanigan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In Wisconsin, when life hands you apples, you make elegant ciders. And brandy," 27 June 2018 Hidden City serendipity: contributing editor/half of HC's Instagram feed Brad Maule and HC columnist/tour guide GroJLart randomly running into each other in Acadia National Park on a Tuesday. Inga Saffron,, "What's the connection between a Philly blogger and the demolition of the Washington Ave. chocolate factory? | Inga Saffron," 3 May 2018 But like most complex, improvised projects, New Orleans actually came together over many years, and each stage involved various levels of indecision, contingency, discord and serendipity. Richard Campanella,, "How New Orleans was founded in 1718: Indecision, contingency, discord and serendipity," 10 Jan. 2018 If necessity is the mother of invention, serendipity is often the mother of progress. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "Serendipity in Science Is Often Born of Years of Labor," 4 May 2018 But its most salient advantages come from its location and industrial mix, more to do with serendipity than policy. New York Times, "Lessons From Rust-Belt Cities That Kept Their Sheen," 1 May 2018 Through sheer serendipity, this odd triple-star planet popped up first. William Herkewitz, Popular Mechanics, "We Found a Planet Twirling Between Three Suns," 7 July 2016 First, Rhodes’s history makes clear that innovations in energy are rarely the work of one genius and happen at a slow, incremental pace, marked by frequent setbacks as well as serendipity and happenstance. New York Times, "A History of the Energy We Have Consumed," 18 June 2018

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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Last Updated

27 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for serendipity

The first known use of serendipity was in 1754

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English Language Learners Definition of serendipity

: 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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