1 a : an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance
b : lack of intention or necessity : chance
2 a : an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance
b medical : an unexpected and medically important bodily event especially when injurious
c law : an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought
d US, informal — used euphemistically to refer to an uncontrolled or involuntary act or instance of urination or defecation (as by a baby or a pet)
3 : a nonessential property or quality of an entity or circumstance
Did You Know?
Accident is just one of many words in the English language from the Latin verb cadere, meaning “to fall.” Among the others are deciduous (an adjective used to describe something, such as leaves, which fall off or shed seasonally or at a certain stage of development in the life cycle), cascade (which can mean, among other things, “a steep fall of water” or “something falling or rushing forth”), cadence (“a falling inflection of the voice”), and decay (“to fall into ruin”). Chance, which functions as a synonym of accident in one sense, is also a cadere descendant.
“A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken, in the street. The accident had happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859
“One April night in 1820, the Danish experimentalist Hans Christian Øersted made a remarkable discovery. By bringing an electrical wire near a compass lying on his workbench, he found its needle could be made to shiver and dance. Whether a lucky accident or an inspired bit of experimentation, that moment cemented Øersted’s reputation.” — Stephen Ornes, New Scientist, 27 Nov. 2019