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[ak-si-den-tl] /ˌæk sɪˈdɛn tl/
happening by chance or accident; not planned; unexpected:
an accidental meeting.
nonessential; incidental; subsidiary:
accidental benefits.
Music. relating to or indicating sharps, flats, or naturals.
a nonessential or subsidiary circumstance, characteristic, or feature.
Music. a sign placed before a note indicating a chromatic alteration of its pitch.
Origin of accidental
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
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.
1. planned, contrived. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for accidental
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But the chief point was that all this was, as it were, not accidental in me, but as though it were bound to be so.

    White Nights and Other Stories Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Realize it thoroughly: it is a methodical not an accidental world.

    Pax Vobiscum Henry Drummond
  • This is another of the accidental coincidences which attest the genuineness of the Acts.

  • My only chance will be the chance of an accidental meeting with Him.

    Henry Dunbar M. E. Braddon
  • It is enough to say here that the view Cooper took was not hastily formed, nor was it the result of accidental prejudices.

    James Fenimore Cooper Thomas R. Lounsbury
British Dictionary definitions for accidental


occurring by chance, unexpectedly, or unintentionally
nonessential; incidental
(music) denoting sharps, flats, or naturals that are not in the key signature of a piece
(logic) (of a property) not essential; contingent
an incidental, nonessential, or supplementary circumstance, factor, or attribute
(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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Word Origin and History for accidental

late 14c., "non-essential," from Old French accidentel or directly from Medieval Latin accidentalis, from Latin accidentem (see accident). Meaning "outside the normal course of nature" is from early 15c.; that of "coming by chance" is from 1570s.


late 14c., "non-essential quality," from accidental (adj.). The musical sense is from 1868.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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