vi·​cis·​si·​tude və-ˈsi-sə-ˌtüd How to pronounce vicissitude (audio)
: the quality or state of being changeable : mutability
: natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs
: a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance : a fluctuation of state or condition
the vicissitudes of daily life
: a difficulty or hardship attendant on a way of life, a career, or a course of action and usually beyond one's control
: alternating change : succession

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Changes and Vicissitude

"Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better," wrote British theologian Richard Hooker in the 16th century. That observation may shed some light on vicissitude, a word that can refer simply to the fact of change, or to an instance of it, but that often refers specifically to hardship or difficulty brought about by change. To survive "the vicissitudes of life" is thus to survive life's ups and downs, with special emphasis on the downs. Vicissitude is a descendant of the Latin noun vicis, meaning "change" or "alternation," and it has been a part of the English language since the 16th century. In contemporary usage, it most often occurs in the plural.

Examples of vicissitude in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web How should those future retirees be investing today to best weather the vicissitudes of tomorrow? Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 2 Mar. 2023 The vicissitudes of a placid adulthood: a dinner that tastes good, but not great; a film that entertains but doesn’t transport. Hazlitt, 4 May 2022 During the past 20 years, the newsroom has been hit with pay cuts, layoffs and furloughs on an almost yearly basis as the company attempts to respond to both the economy and the vicissitudes of an industry in constant flux. John D'anna, azcentral, 19 May 2020 This last element—a form of legal financing called third-party litigation funding—proliferated during the 2008 recession, in part because lawsuits are somewhat insulated from the vicissitudes of the market. Francesca Mari, The Atlantic, 16 Apr. 2020 People who pay attention to the vicissitudes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk know that the man is not always serious on Twitter. Aarian Marshall, Wired, 10 May 2020 The vicissitudes of history always challenge us in new and often confounding ways; that’s in the nature of things. Jon Meacham, New York Times, 24 Mar. 2020 All of the biggest corporate mergers, the deals that determine the vicissitudes of our global markets, happen within their walls. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, 30 Mar. 2020 Sport is usually a constant -- a field, court, track or course that is resistant to the vicissitudes of the world around us. George Ramsay, CNN, 12 Mar. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vicissitude.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French, from Latin vicissitudo, from vicissim in turn, from vicis change, alternation — more at week

First Known Use

circa 1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of vicissitude was circa 1576


Dictionary Entries Near vicissitude

Cite this Entry

“Vicissitude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


vi·​cis·​si·​tude və-ˈsis-ə-ˌt(y)üd How to pronounce vicissitude (audio)
: a surprising or irregular change
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