Definition of accidental in English:

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Pronunciation: /aksɪˈdɛnt(ə)l/


1Happening by chance, unintentionally, or unexpectedly: a verdict of accidental death the damage might have been accidental
More example sentences
  • Jurgis moves downtown to look for a job and gets a chance through an accidental meeting of an old union buddy on his way to work at a machine factory.
  • ‘Every single random, accidental death is something that should upset a faith bound up with comfort and ready answers,’ he wrote.
  • No longer are you creatures of an accidental happening in an obscure corner of a randomly evolving cosmos.
2Incidental; subsidiary: the location is accidental and contributes nothing to the poem
More example sentences
  • Incidental and accidental speech tones and pacing aren't a consideration in this sort of exercise. Clarity is all.
  • So, differences can be accepted only as secondary or accidental characteristics of persons.
  • If so, isn't it possible that art is in decline not as part of some grand narrative, but as a accidental and possibly fleeting phenomenon?
incidental, unimportant, by the way, by the by, supplementary, subsidiary, subordinate, secondary, marginal, minor, lesser, accessory, peripheral, tangential, extraneous, extrinsic, parenthetical, irrelevant, immaterial, beside the point, of little account, unnecessary, non-essential, inessential
3 Philosophy (In Aristotelian thought) relating to or denoting properties which are not essential to a thing’s nature.
Example sentences
  • It is customary, both in everyday speech and in philosophical discussion, to distinguish between the essential and the accidental properties of objects.
  • Thus in Aristotle's view, there are accidental phenomena in nature, and they are not subject to scientific knowledge.
  • Clarke steadfastly maintained that matter has neither an essential nor an accidental power of self-motion.


1 Music A sign indicating a momentary departure from the key signature by raising or lowering a note: horn parts are usually written without key signature, the necessary accidentals being added
More example sentences
  • Students learn to move out of position, cross over, play scale patterns and deal with accidentals, eighth notes, harmonic intervals, switching melody between hands and playing hands together.
  • Successful performance of this work requires a moderate to advanced sense of lyrical line, fluid mastery of third octave fingerings and a working knowledge of accidentals, including double sharps (x).
  • Some composers frequently add bracketed accidentals in order to clarify complicated passages or chords.
2 Ornithology another term for vagrant.
Example sentences
  • I would hope that accidentals like the Black-necked Stork and Yellow-fronted Canary are safe regardless of existing legislation.


Late Middle English (in sense 2 of the adjective and sense 3 of the adjective): from late Latin accidentalis, from Latin accident- 'happening' (see accident).

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Line breaks: ac¦ci|den¦tal

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