Definition of chance in English:

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Pronunciation: /tʃɑːns/


1A possibility of something happening: there is a chance of winning the raffle [mass noun]: there is little chance of his finding a job
More example sentences
  • I'm always singing around the house and can't believe I could be in with a chance to let the nation vote for my voice.
  • Now is the time to get your tickets for the monthly community draw and be in with a chance to get your hands on some great money prizes.
  • It is a good draw with all the teams in with a chance of qualification.
possibility, prospect, probability, odds, likelihood, likeliness, expectation, anticipation, conceivability, feasibility, plausibility;
risk, threat, menace, hazard, danger, fear, peril, liability;
hope, opportunity, promise
1.1 (chances) The probability of something desirable happening: he played down his chances of becoming chairman
More example sentences
  • Had he scored, the chances are Hibs could probably have added another chapter to their hard-luck story.
  • That risk figure is calculated on the basis that you figure out what can go wrong and what the chances are of that happening.
  • What do you think the chances are of that happening and what would be the effect if he did?
1.2 [in singular] An opportunity to do or achieve something: I gave her a chance to answer
More example sentences
  • Most people would agree that Castle-dermot deserves the chance to achieve this potential.
  • A golden chance to achieve success and happiness in life, that does exist in a world of realities.
  • It was a lack of putting touch that cost Ashworth the chance of achieving his long-held dream of playing in The Open.
opportunity, opening, occasion, turn, time, moment, window (of opportunity), slot;
North American & Australian/New Zealand  show;
Canadian  a kick at the can/cat
informal break, shot, look-in
2 [mass noun] The occurrence of events in the absence of any obvious intention or cause: he met his brother by chance
More example sentences
  • I was at Mosport by chance at a private event for providing on-track coaching to owners of some very exotic cars.
  • P, the manager of Cafe Bastille on Belden Lane, by chance of fate is also our neighbour.
  • Burlison invented fuzz by chance when he accidentally dropped his amplifier to the floor before a gig.
accident, coincidence, serendipity, fate, a twist of fate, destiny, fortuity, fortune, providence, freak, hazard;
a piece of good fortune, (a bit of) luck, (a bit of) good luck, a fluke, a happy chance;
North American  happenstance
fortuitously, by accident, accidentally, coincidentally, serendipitously, unintentionally, inadvertently;
unwittingly, unknowingly, unawares, unconsciously


Fortuitous; accidental: a chance meeting
More example sentences
  • She now runs a boutique and recounts how a chance encounter changed her life.
  • I wouldn't hang my hat on saying it was such a chance encounter.
  • Secondly, there must be a chance meeting between the right female and male.


1 [no object, with infinitive] Do something by accident or without intending to: he was very effusive if they chanced to meet
More example sentences
  • White wondered silently if this man he chanced to meet in the desert were really as well intending as he seemed to be.
  • Nobody I have ever chanced to meet has ever played the cards as well as Evelyn.
  • Maybe in all of his handling of it, he'd finally chanced to accidentally turn it on.
1.1 (chance upon/on/across) Find or see by accident: he chanced upon an interesting advertisement
More example sentences
  • So I have converted 60 people to the cause (some of those people may just have chanced across the site by accident - looking up kinky octopuses no doubt).
  • As from next year, there will be no domestic coverage of Test cricket, so no opportunity for hungover passers-by to accidentally chance upon such a thriller.
  • The answer had become clear to Eaton last night, when he had chanced upon Clara comforting Will after Rebecca's accident.
come across, run across, run into, happen on, hit on, light on, come upon, stumble on, blunder on, find by chance, meet (by chance)
informal bump into
archaic run against
2 [with object] informal Do (something) despite its being dangerous or of uncertain outcome: they chanced a late holiday
More example sentences
  • Children as young as eight and nine have been spotted chancing dangerous tightrope walks across the poles which rise up to 30 ft above the ground.
  • I chanced a second look and was rewarded with even more shots pelting my position dangerously close to my face.
  • I chanced a look up and Liam smiled uncertainly at me.
risk, hazard, venture, try, try one's luck with
formal essay



as chance would have it

As it happened: as chance would have it, we were going camping that weekend
More example sentences
  • There was no forensic evidence but as chance would have it at about 2am a neighbour saw a man whom he knew by sight and first name visiting the property.
  • All a bit negative, so as a columnist, I wanted to seek out a more positive view of the game, and as chance would have it, I ended up enjoying coffee with one of Norway's most celebrated authors, Thorvald Steen.
  • People come from far and wide to sample their fish'n'chips, so we were just expecting to get some take out - but as chance would have it there was one table free, the fabled Window Seat!

by any chance

Possibly (used in tentative enquiries or suggestions): were you looking for me by any chance?
More example sentences
  • Is Michelle still working there, by any chance?
  • Is this an anti-capitalism statement, by any chance?
  • Did you take your own legal advice, by any chance?

chance one's arm (or luck)

British informal Undertake something although it may be dangerous or unsuccessful: the ferryman decided not to chance his luck in the storm
More example sentences
  • I usually leave them to chance their luck in the garden through the winter, and although they coped with the very wet winter we had last year, I wonder if they will be so fortunate this year.
  • The emergence of ‘no-win no-fee’ law firms makes this ‘chancing your luck’ possible.
  • How about chancing your arm on a couple of spells?

chance would be a fine thing

British informal Expressing a speaker’s belief that something is desirable but the opportunity is unlikely to arise: ‘You should come to the cafe with us.’ ‘Chance would be a fine thing.’
More example sentences
  • Nobody wants a police state - chance would be a fine thing with the human rights brigade always waiting to pounce - but how would those who voted against the 90-day clause feel if there was yet another terrorist attack?
  • The chance would be a fine thing - with Wellington boots on!
  • But chance would be a fine thing, say Labour MPs.

be in with a chance

Have the possibility of success or victory: he is still in with a chance of winning the dance competition
More example sentences
  • "I knew I might have been in with a chance, but never expected to win," he added.
  • By the last couple of rounds we were in with a chance.
  • All question papers must be returned by September 1 to be in with a chance of claiming one of the prizes.

no chance

informal There is no possibility of that: Pressed for further comment, he snarled: ‘No chance.’

on the (off) chance

Just in case: she thought of ringing on the off chance of catching him at the flat
More example sentences
  • I'd found her number in the phone book and called her up on the chance that she'd meet me.
  • What are the chances that, even on the off chance that she did happen to see this ad, she would actually remember one drunken night in a youth hostel ten years ago?
  • So, on the off chance that any occupation officials are reading this post, I'm going to list a few guidelines that may help you avoid bad coverage.

stand a chance

Have a prospect of success or survival: his rivals don’t stand a chance
More example sentences
  • The Tory idea stands a chance of success depending on which councillors turn up for the meeting.
  • So they knew they needed to beat each other in order to stand a chance of survival.
  • The Olympic committee is backing a recent sports council initiative that agreed to focus most of its funding on sports that stood a chance of Olympic success.

take a chance (or chances)

Behave in a way that leaves one vulnerable to danger or failure: the bank was prepared to take a chance and lend him 40% of the purchase price it was probably safe, but she was taking no chances
More example sentences
  • More often than not it appears to be the belief that it is better to play it safe rather than take a chance at change and failure.
  • The four fearless musicians who comprise NEWA (Nicholas Brancker, Eddie Bullen, Wilson Laurencin and Arturo Tappin) took chances, venturing into the unknown.
  • For such a small investment its well worth taking a chance and it could be you who has all their Christmas and New Year money worries wiped out instantly.
risk, gamble, hazard, venture, speculation, long shot, leap in the dark, pig in a poke, lottery, pot luck
(take a chance on)9.1 Put one’s trust in (something or someone) knowing that it may not be safe or certain: his boss was prepared to take a chance on youngsters
More example sentences
  • The players might have done it themselves but I wasn't prepared to take a chance on that.
  • To make something like Thalos happen takes some courage, and I have to hand it to London and Vienna for taking a chance on trusting their public to show themselves in a good way.
  • With the chart singles being blared out of every available set of speakers, which are you going to do - go for the name you know and trust, or take a chance on one you don't?

take one's chance

Do something risky with the hope of success: he was tempted to stay on the train and take his chance
More example sentences
  • We always thought he would come through and we are just hoping he takes his chance now.
  • The Bellamys are being fully refunded and hope to take their chance to go on another cruise towards the end of the year.
  • Up here you get your chance, and you take your chance.


Middle English: from Old French cheance, from cheoir 'fall, befall', based on Latin cadere.

  • The ultimate source of chance is Latin cadere ‘to fall’, the root of many other words including those listed at accident. In medieval times chance could mean ‘an accident’ as well as ‘the way things happen, fortune’. There are a number of stories associated with the origin of the phrase chance your arm, meaning ‘to take a risk’. One suggests that it was a slang expression used by tailors who, in rushing the job of sewing in a sleeve, risked the stitches coming loose. Or it may refer to the stripes on the sleeve of a military uniform that indicate a soldier's rank. Doing something that broke military regulations might put you at risk of losing one of your stripes. The most colourful explanation links the phrase with a feud between the Irish Ormond and Kildare families in 1492. According to the story the Earl of Ormond had taken refuge in St Patrick's cathedral in Dublin. The Earl of Kildare, wishing to end the feud and make peace, cut a hole in the cathedral door and put his arm through. The Earl of Ormond accepted his offer of reconciliation and shook his hand rather than cutting it off.

Words that rhyme with chance

advance, Afrikaans, à outrance, dance, enhance, entrance, faience, France, glance, lance, mischance, outdance, perchance, prance, Provence, stance, trance

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: chance

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