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the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency:
Chance governs all.
luck or fortune:
a game of chance.
a possibility or probability of anything happening:
a fifty-percent chance of success.
an opportune or favorable time; opportunity:
Now is your chance.
Baseball. an opportunity to field the ball and make a put-out or assist.
a risk or hazard:
Take a chance.
a share or ticket in a lottery or prize drawing:
The charity is selling chances for a dollar each.
chances, probability:
The chances are that the train hasn’t left yet.
Midland and Southern U.S. a quantity or number (usually followed by of).
Archaic. an unfortunate event; mishap.
to happen or occur by chance:
It chanced that our arrivals coincided.
to take the chances or risks of; risk (often followed by impersonal it):
I’ll have to chance it, whatever the outcome.
not planned or expected; accidental:
a chance occurrence.
chance on/upon, to come upon by chance; meet unexpectedly:
She chanced on a rare kind of mushroom during her walk through the woods.
by chance, without plan or intent; accidentally:
I met her again by chance in a department store in Paris.
on the chance, in the mild hope or against the possibility:
I’ll wait on the chance that she’ll come.
on the off chance, in the very slight hope or against the very slight possibility.

the unknown and unpredictable element that causes an event to result in a certain way rather than another, spoken of as a real force
(as modifier): a chance meeting, related adjective fortuitous

fortune; luck; fate
an opportunity or occasion
a risk; gamble: you take a chance with his driving
the extent to which an event is likely to occur; probability
an unpredicted event, esp a fortunate one: that was quite a chance, finding him here
(archaic) an unlucky event; mishap
by chance

accidentally: he slipped by chance
perhaps: do you by chance have a room?

chances are…, the chances are…, it is likely (that) …
on the chance, acting on the possibility; in case
the main chance, the opportunity for personal gain (esp in the phrase an eye to the main chance)
(transitive) to risk; hazard: I’ll chance the worst happening
to happen by chance; be the case by chance: I chanced to catch sight of her as she passed
chance on, chance upon, to come upon by accident: he chanced on the solution to his problem
chance one’s arm, to attempt to do something although the chance of success may be slight

c.1300, “something that takes place, what happens, an occurrence” (good or bad, but more often bad), from Old French cheance “accident, chance, fortune, luck, situation, the falling of dice” (12c., Modern French chance), from Vulgar Latin *cadentia “that which falls out,” a term used in dice, from neuter plural of Latin cadens, present participle of cadere “to fall” (see case (n.1)).

In English frequently in plural, chances. The word’s notions of “opportunity” and “randomness” are as old as the record of it in English and now all but crowd out the word’s original notion of “mere occurrence.” Main chance “thing of most importance” is from 1570s, bearing the older sense. The mathematical (and hence odds-making) sense is attested from 1778. To stand a chance (or not) is from 1796.

To take (one’s) chances “accept what happens” (early 14c.) is from the old, neutral sense; to take a chance/take chances is originally (by 1814) “participate in a raffle or lottery or game;” extended sense of “take a risk” is by 1826.

late 14c., “to come about, to happen,” from chance (n.). Meaning “to risk” attested from 1859. Related: Chanced; chancing.

Related Terms

outside chance, a snowball’s chance in hell

(Luke 10:31). “It was not by chance that the priest came down by that road at that time, but by a specific arrangement and in exact fulfilment of a plan; not the plan of the priest, nor the plan of the wounded traveller, but the plan of God. By coincidence (Gr. sungkuria) the priest came down, that is, by the conjunction of two things, in fact, which were previously constituted a pair in the providence of God. In the result they fell together according to the omniscient Designer’s plan. This is the true theory of the divine government.” Compare the meeting of Philip with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26, 27). There is no “chance” in God’s empire. “Chance” is only another word for our want of knowledge as to the way in which one event falls in with another (1 Sam. 6:9; Eccl. 9:11).

chance it
chance on


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