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 Freed from the bonds and vicissitudes of Kyrie-dom, the Celtics begin basketball anew Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, the same opening night opponent as last season., "The deck has been reshuffled for the Celtics and across the NBA. If the hoops cognoscenti are inversely as incorrect about this Celtics team as they were about last year’s, then it should be a wild ride for the right reasons this time.," 23 Oct. 2019 More investors are likely hoping for a deal than to endure the vicissitudes of a solo heart drug launch. Washington Post, "Euphoria Over a Fish-Oil Heart Pill Hits a Wall," 16 Dec. 2019 The vicissitudes of public opinion that so worried the Framers then tend to become the determinants of policy. Mario Loyola, National Review, "Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump," 5 Dec. 2019 The question, when the story is being told onscreen or onstage, is never whether these vicissitudes will be included but how brutally, and to what representational end. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, "The Legend of Tina Turner," 11 Nov. 2019 More humble, more accepting of vicissitudes of his sport, and eager to learn from his mistakes. Steve Douglas, The Denver Post, "Anthony Joshua out to regain aura, boxing belts in rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.," 4 Dec. 2019 More humble, more accepting of vicissitudes of his sport, and eager to learn from his mistakes. Steve Douglas,, "Anthony Joshua out to regain aura, belts in rematch," 4 Dec. 2019 February 21 Europe’s political vicissitudes have been bad for France’s Orange SA and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG. Washington Post, "Brexit Made Telefonica Lucky. It May Also Be Smart," 19 Sep. 2019 This tragic tale is made all the more poignant by the many highs and lows in the narrative and the utter helplessness of the protagonists in the face of destiny’s vicissitudes. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "Ram: The gentle, tragic prince who became the face of aggressive Hindu nationalism," 9 Nov. 2019

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

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vicissitude.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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