vi·​cis·​si·​tude | \ və-ˈsi-sə-ˌtüd How to pronounce vicissitude (audio) , vī-, -ˌtyüd \

Definition of vicissitude

1a : the quality or state of being changeable : mutability
b : natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs
2a : a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance : a fluctuation of state or condition the vicissitudes of daily life
b : a difficulty or hardship attendant on a way of life, a career, or a course of action and usually beyond one's control
c : 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 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, "The Arizona Republic at 130 years old: 'First, last and all the time a newspaper'," 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, "The Oil Spill, the Tort Lawyer, and the Clients Who Didn’t Exist," 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, "Fantastical Plans Are on Hold, and More Car News This Week," 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, "Great Leadership in a Time of Crisis," 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, "'In Five Years' Is Marie Claire's April Book Club Pick," 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, "Leagues postponed, athletes infected -- coronavirus plunges sport into the twilight zone," 12 Mar. 2020 For provincials like my mother and me, Moscow meant a small break from the daily vicissitudes of late-period Soviet life. Anastasia Edel, The New York Review of Books, "A Winter’s Night at the Bolshoi, 1985," 6 Mar. 2020 Angel hoped to help Greenwell start a tree-planting business that could free him from the vicissitudes of day labor and help him build a future. Washington Post, "Kentucky was devastated for decades by mountaintop removal. Now scientists have figured out a way to undo the damage — one tree at a time.," 13 Feb. 2020

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

circa 1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for vicissitude

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

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Time Traveler for vicissitude

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The first known use of vicissitude was circa 1576

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Last Updated

14 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vicissitude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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