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

And most growers prefer a steady local workforce with ongoing knowledge of the vicissitudes of particular crops and climates. Michael Greenberg, The New York Review of Books, "Farmworker Anxieties," 21 Feb. 2019 Yet the thought of the vicissitudes of her suffering never seemed to register with him. Anna Pasternak, Town & Country, "How Wallis Simpson Reacted When King Edward VIII Revealed His Plans to Abdicate," 5 Mar. 2019 The treatise is one of the great meditations on the meaning of life in all its vicissitudes. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "Literature Behind Bars," 12 July 2018 Before setting off for New England, Wynberg spoke with the Globe about the ensemble, its mission of artistic recovery, and the vicissitudes of presenting music that — by definition — audiences have never encountered before. Jeremy Eichler,, "Music from the shadows, being heard anew," 28 June 2018 For decades, America’s satellites had circled Earth at a largely safe remove from the vicissitudes of geopolitics. Garrett M. Graff, WIRED, "The New Arms Race Threatening to Explode in Space," 26 June 2018 But the vicissitudes of nature paled next to another looming threat: the pressures of gentrification on an urban pocket where housing prices have increased more than 400 percent since 2000. Kristin E. Holmes,, "As Philly neighborhoods gentrify, black churches lose their base and leave," 6 July 2018 The reasons amount to an obstacle course built from policy mistakes, economic vicissitudes, and prejudice. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "Big Tech Isn’t the Problem With Homelessness. It’s All of Us," 21 June 2018 Our server, clearly versed in the vicissitudes of dining with children, puts those orders in right away. Kara Baskin,, "Quick Bite: At The Wellington in Belmont, a family-friendly night out," 21 June 2018

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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Last Updated

29 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for vicissitude

The first known use of vicissitude was circa 1576

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Comments on vicissitude

What made you want to look up vicissitude? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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