an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap:
automobile accidents.
Law. such a happening resulting in injury that is in no way the fault of the injured person for which compensation or indemnity is legally sought.
any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.
chance; fortune; luck:
I was there by accident.
a fortuitous circumstance, quality, or characteristic:
an accident of birth.
Philosophy. any entity or event contingent upon the existence of something else.
Geology. a surface irregularity, usually on a small scale, the reason for which is not apparent.
Contemporary Examples

Rather than using the implications of the accident to advance his own brand of Christianity, he offered comfort.
Pawlenty’s Pastor Problem McKay Coppins July 11, 2011

It only need prove criminal agency—that the death was a homicide, as opposed to an accident.
Casey Jury Brainwash Marcia Clark July 7, 2011

Known for demolishing guitars on stage, he recounts the first time it happened—an accident.
Speed Read: 11 Most Shocking Moments From Pete Townshend’s ‘Who I Am’ Abby Haglage October 7, 2012

Bohn recalled how the accident crushed the Welch family, and how Laura did not return to school for at least a month.
Behind Laura Bush’s Car Crash A. L. Bardach May 1, 2010

When she complained that they never knew exactly how the child died, she was asked: “So you believed it was an accident?”
Casey Jury Brainwash Marcia Clark July 7, 2011

Historical Examples

Abdominal section fifty-three and a half hours after accident.
Surgical Experiences in South Africa, 1899-1900 George Henry Makins

By some accident, it had been left unhasped, and yielded easily to her hand.
The Wives of The Dead Nathaniel Hawthorne

They thought he would feel as they would feel about such an accident.
Gladiator Philip Wylie

But we had an accident, now, and it fetched all the plans to a standstill.
Tom Sawyer Abroad Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

No accident, I hope, has happened to your mistress, young sir?
Boscobel: or, the royal oak William Harrison Ainsworth

an unforeseen event or one without an apparent cause
anything that occurs unintentionally or by chance; chance; fortune: I met him by accident
a misfortune or mishap, esp one causing injury or death
(logic, philosophy) Also called adjunct. a nonessential attribute or characteristic of something (as opposed to substance)
(metaphysics) a property as contrasted with the substance in which it inheres
(geology) a surface irregularity in a natural formation, esp in a rock formation or a river system

late 14c., “an occurrence, incident, event,” from Old French accident (12c.), from Latin accidentem (nominative accidens), present participle of accidere “happen, fall out, fall upon,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + cadere “fall” (see case (n.1)). Meaning grew from “something that happens, an event,” to “something that happens by chance,” then “mishap.” Philosophical sense “non-essential characteristic of a thing” is late 14c. Meaning “unplanned child” is attested by 1932.


A person born from an unplanned pregnancy; an unplanned pregnancy: At 50, this third one was an accident (1900+)

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  • Accident insurance

    insurance providing for loss resulting from accidental bodily injury. Historical Examples We have written, I presume, millions of policies of accident insurance upon persons engaged in industrial occupation. Proceedings, Third National Conference Workmen’s Compensation for Industrial Accidents Various Fred was assiduous in his cultivation of the force; he called it “accident insurance.” Making Money Owen […]

  • Accident-prone

    tending to have more accidents or mishaps than the average person. adjective more liable than most people to be involved in accidents

  • Accident proneness

    noun the unconscious tendency, thought to exist in some people, to involve themselves in a large number of accidents

  • Accident tout


  • Accidental death benefit

    a life insurance benefit, usually in the form of a rider or policy addition, under which the proceeds are payable to the beneficiary only if the insured dies by accident.

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