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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 accidently
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Recently the story has been told of a burglar who accidently discharged a magnesium light connected with a kodak on the shelf.

    A Man's Value to Society Newell Dwight Hillis
  • He had chopped off several of her fingers, when they were accidently interrupted.

    Basque Legends Wentworth Webster
  • Barbara was obviously deeply concerned over the evidence which Joe Strong had accidently turned up.

  • The matter was settled for him by meeting her accidently outside the buvette.

    Beggars on Horseback F. Tennyson Jesse
  • But I wouldn't agree to that for fear it might accidently be true.

    A Texas Cow Boy Chas. A. Siringo
  • “You might accidently run into the person who stole your gun,” Penny suggested.

    Swamp Island Mildred A. Wirt
  • The other accidently put an end to her own life several weeks ago.

    Little Wolf M. A. Cornelius
  • In Sam's bedroom, as if accidently dropped and kicked partway under the bed, I found this.

    The Great Gray Plague Raymond F. Jones
British Dictionary definitions for accidently


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 accidently



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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