from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm: car accidents on icy roads.
  • n. An unforeseen incident: A series of happy accidents led to his promotion.
  • n. An instance of involuntary urination or defecation in one's clothing.
  • n. Lack of intention; chance: ran into an old friend by accident.
  • n. Logic A circumstance or attribute that is not essential to the nature of something.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An unexpected event with negative consequences occurring without the intention of the one suffering the consequences.
  • n. Any chance event.
  • n. Chance.
  • n. An unintended event such as a collision that causes damage or death.
  • n. Any property, fact, or relation that is the result of chance or is nonessential.
  • n. An instance of incontinence.
  • n. An unintended pregnancy.
  • n. A quality or attribute in distinction from the substance, as sweetness, softness.
  • n. A property attached to a word, but not essential to it, as gender, number, case.
  • n. An irregular surface feature with no apparent cause.
  • n. A point or mark which may be retained or omitted in a coat of arms.
  • n. casus; such unforeseen, extraordinary, extraneous interference as is out of the range of ordinary calculation.
  • n. An unplanned event that results in injury (including death) or occupational illness to person(s) and/or damage to property, exclusive of injury and/or damage caused by action of an enemy or hostile force.
  • n. Appearance, manifestation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Literally, a befalling; an event that takes place without one's foresight or expectation; an undesigned, sudden, and unexpected event; chance; contingency; often, an undesigned and unforeseen occurrence of an afflictive or unfortunate character; a casualty; a mishap.
  • n. A property attached to a word, but not essential to it, as gender, number, case.
  • n. A point or mark which may be retained or omitted in a coat of arms.
  • n.
  • n. A property or quality of a thing which is not essential to it, as whiteness in paper; an attribute.
  • n. A quality or attribute in distinction from the substance, as sweetness, softness.
  • n. Any accidental property, fact, or relation; an accidental or nonessential.
  • n. Unusual appearance or effect.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In general, anything that happens or begins to be without design, or as an unforeseen effect; that which falls out by chance; a fortuitous event or circumstance.
  • n. Specifically, an undesirable or unfortunate happening; an undesigned harm or injury; a casualty or mishap.
  • n. The operation of chance; an undesigned contingency; a happening without intentional causation; chance; fortune: as, it was the result of accident; I was there by accident.
  • n. That which exists or occurs abnormally; something unusual or phenomenal; an uncommon occurrence or appearance.
  • n. Irregularity; unevenness; abruptness.
  • n. An irregularity of surface; an undulation: as, the enemy was favored by the accidents of the ground.
  • n. A non-essential.
  • n. In grammar, a variation or inflection of a word, not essential to its primary signification, but marking a modification of its relation, as gender, number, and case. See accidence.
  • n. Synonyms Chance, mischance, hap, mishap, fortune, misfortune, luck, bad luck, casualty, calamity, disaster.
  • n. Property, Attribute, etc. See quality.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an unfortunate mishap; especially one causing damage or injury
  • n. anything that happens suddenly or by chance without an apparent cause


Middle English, chance event, from Old French, from Latin accidēns, accident-, present participle of accidere, to happen : ad-, ad- + cadere, to fall; see kad- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)



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  • "accident" versus "crash"

    See Matt Richtel, 
    It’s No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car ‘Crashes’ Instead
    , N.Y. Times, May 22, 2016.

    “When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like, ‘God made it happen,’ ” Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at a driver safety conference this month at the Harvard School of Public Health.

    . . .

    Almost all crashes stem from driver behavior like drinking, distracted driving and other risky activity. About 6 percent are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather and other factors.

    . . .

    Dr. Rosekind has added his voice to a growing chorus of advocates who say that the persistence of crashes . . . can be explained in part by widespread apathy toward the issue. 

    Changing semantics is meant to shake people, particularly policy makers, out of the implicit nobody’s-fault attitude that the word “accident” conveys, they said.

    Id. Interesting historical note:

    The word was introduced into the lexicon of manufacturing and other industries in the early 1900s, when companies were looking to protect themselves from the costs of caring for workers who were injured on the job, according to Peter Norton, a historian and associate professor at the University of Virginia's department of engineering.

    . . .

    When traffic deaths spiked in the 1920s, a consortium of auto-industry interests, including insurers, borrowed the word to shift the focus away from the cars themselves. "Automakers were very interested in blaming reckless drivers," Dr. Norton said.

    But over time, he said, the word has come to exonerate the driver, too, with "accident" seeming like a lightning strike, beyond anyone's control."


    See Drop the 'A' Word blog, The blog's tagline:

    Not all crashes are "accidents". Crimes are not "accidents". It's not an "accident" when a person makes a decision to drive drunk, distracted, or in a negligent manner. Stop giving criminals a pass by calling it an "accident".


    See Crash not Accident website.

    May 25, 2016

  • "They're funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you're having them."
    -- Winnie the Pooh

    September 24, 2009

  • "It was not an accident! You're not careful!"

    -Neal, to Jeff.

    August 15, 2008

  • Accident, a town in Garrett County, Maryland, United States.

    January 1, 2008