- happening by chance; fortuitous
- belonging but not essential; attributive; incidental
- Music of an accidental
Origin of accidentalMiddle English from Late Latin accidentalis: see accident
- a nonessential quality or feature
- a sign, as a sharp, flat, or natural, placed before a note to show a change of pitch from that indicated by the key signature
- the tone indicated by such a sign
- Occurring unexpectedly, unintentionally, or by chance.
- Music Of or relating to an accidental.
- Being an animal, especially a bird, that has strayed beyond its normal range.
- A property, factor, or attribute that is not essential.
- Music a. Any of various signs that indicate the alteration of a note by one or two semitones or the cancellation of a previous sign.b. A note that has been marked with such a sign.
- An animal that has strayed beyond its normal range.
- ac′ci·den′tal·ly ac′ci·dent′ly
left to right: G natural, G flat, G sharp
accidental fortuitous contingent incidental adventitious
These adjectives apply to what happens unintentionally. Accidental primarily refers to what occurs by chance: an accidental meeting. It can also mean subordinate or nonessential: “Poetry is something to which words are the accidental, not by any means the essential form” (Frederick W. Robertson). Fortuitous stresses chance even more strongly: “the happy combination of fortuitous circumstances” (Sir Walter Scott). Contingent describes what is possible but uncertain because of unforeseen or uncontrollable factors: “The results of confession were not contingent, they were certain” (George Eliot). Incidental refers to a minor or unanticipated result or accompaniment: “There is scarcely any practice which is so corrupt as not to produce some incidental good” (Enoch Mellor). Adventitious applies to something acquired or added externally, sometimes by accident or chance: “The court tries to understand ‘whether the young man's misconduct was adventitious or the result of some serious flaw in his character’” (Harry F. Rosenthal).
(comparative more accidental, superlative most accidental)
- Happening by chance, or unexpectedly; taking place not according to the usual course of things; casual; fortuitous
- an accidental visit
- Nonessential; not necessary belonging; incidental
- are accidental to a play
- (music) Foreign to the key signature or a proper harmony.
- (geometry) Being a double point with two distinct tangent planes in 4-dimensional projective space.
- We speak of a thing as accidental when it falls out as by chance, and not in the regular course of things; as, an accidental meeting, an accidental advantage, etc.
- We call a thing incidental when it falls, as it were, into some regular course of things, but is secondary, and forms no essential part thereof; as, an incidental remark, an incidental evil, an incidental benefit.
- We speak of a thing as casual, when it falls out or happens, as it were, by mere chance, without being prearranged or premeditated; as, a casual remark or encounter; a casual observer. An idea of the unimportant is attached to what is casual.
- Fortuitous is applied to what occurs without any known cause, and in opposition to what has been foreseen; as, a fortuitous concourse of atoms.
- We call a thing contingent when it is such that, considered in itself, it may or may not happen, but is dependent for its existence on something else; as, the time of my coming will be contingent on intelligence yet to be received.
- A property which is not essential; a nonessential; anything happening accidentally.
- (painting, plural only) Those fortuitous effects produced by luminous rays falling on certain objects so that some parts stand forth in abnormal brightness and other parts are cast into a deep shadow.
- (music) A sharp, flat, or natural, occurring not at the commencement of a piece of music as the signature, but before a particular note.
- First attested in 1386.
- accident + -al
- Compare French accidentel, earlier accidental.