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accidental

[ak-si-den-tl] /ˌæk sɪˈdɛn tl/
adjective
1.
happening by chance or accident; not planned; unexpected:
an accidental meeting.
2.
nonessential; incidental; subsidiary:
accidental benefits.
3.
Music. relating to or indicating sharps, flats, or naturals.
noun
4.
a nonessential or subsidiary circumstance, characteristic, or feature.
5.
Music. a sign placed before a note indicating a chromatic alteration of its pitch.
Origin
1350-1400
1350-1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin accidentālis. See accident, -al1
Related forms
accidentally, accidently, adverb
accidentalness, accidentality, noun
nonaccidental, adjective, noun
nonaccidentally, adverb
nonaccidentalness, noun
preaccidental, adjective
preaccidentally, adverb
pseudoaccidental, adjective
pseudoaccidentally, adverb
quasi-accidental, adjective
quasi-accidentally, adverb
unaccidental, adjective
unaccidentally, adverb
Synonyms
1. unintentional, unforeseen. Accidental, casual, fortuitous all describe something outside the usual course of events. Accidental implies occurring unexpectedly or by chance: an accidental blow. Casual describes a passing event of slight importance: a casual reference. Fortuitous is applied to events occurring without known cause, often of a fortunate or favorable nature: a fortuitous shower of meteors. It often also implies good luck or good fortune: a fortuitous choice leading to rapid advancement.
Antonyms
1. planned, contrived.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for accidentals
  • Difficult key signatures and numerous accidentals were thus largely avoided.
British Dictionary definitions for accidentals

accidental

/ˌæksɪˈdɛntəl/
adjective
1.
occurring by chance, unexpectedly, or unintentionally
2.
nonessential; incidental
3.
(music) denoting sharps, flats, or naturals that are not in the key signature of a piece
4.
(logic) (of a property) not essential; contingent
noun
5.
an incidental, nonessential, or supplementary circumstance, factor, or attribute
6.
(music) a symbol denoting a sharp, flat, or natural that is not a part of the key signature
Derived Forms
accidentally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Encyclopedia Article for accidentals

accidental

in music, sign placed immediately to the left of (or above) a note to show that the note must be changed in pitch. A sharp () raises a note by a semitone; a flat () lowers it by a semitone; a natural () restores it to the original pitch. Double sharps () and double flats () indicate that the note is raised or lowered by two semitones. Sharps or flats that are placed at the beginning of a musical staff, called a key signature, indicate the tonality, or key, of the music and are not considered accidentals.

Learn more about accidental with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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