Definition of accidental in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌaksəˈden(t)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.
unexpected, unforeseen, unanticipated, unlooked-for, unintentional, unintended, inadvertent, unplanned, unpremeditated, unthinking, unwitting
2Incidental; subsidiary: the location is accidental and contributes nothing to the tension between the characters in 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, accessory, peripheral, tangential, extraneous, extrinsic, irrelevant, nonessential, inessential
3 Philosophy (In Aristotelian thought) relating to or denoting properties that 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.
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).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ac·ci·den·tal

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