Definition of accidental in English:


Line breaks: ac¦ci|den¦tal
Pronunciation: /aksɪˈdɛnt(ə)l


  • 3 Philosophy (In Aristotelian thought) relating to or denoting properties which are not essential to a thing’s nature.
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    • 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.


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  • 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
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    • 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.
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    • 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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