Definitions

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

  • n. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
  • n. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
  • n. An instance of making such a discovery.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An unsought, unintended, and/or unexpected discovery and/or learning experience that happens by accident and sagacity.
  • n. A combination of events which are not individually beneficial, but occurring together produce a good or wonderful outcome.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The happy faculty, or luck, of finding, by “accidental sagacity,” interesting items of information or unexpected proofs of one's theories; discovery of things unsought: a factitious word humorously invented by Horace Walpole.

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

  • n. good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries

Etymologies

From the characters in the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, who made such discoveries, from Persian Sarandīp, Sri Lanka, from Arabic sarandīb.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Serendip +‎ -ity. Coined by Horace Walpole, 1754. See Serendib. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The word serendipity comes from the Persian fairy tale

    Kari Stoever: 720 Saturdays and a Silver Dollar

  • On January 28, 1754, Horace Walpole coined the term serendipity, which means finding something you're not looking for but which you nonetheless need.

    Fleshbot

  • The word "serendipity" comes from the Persian fairy tale "The Three Princes of Serendip," whose heroes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of."

    Kari Stoever: 720 Saturdays and a Silver Dollar

  • Put another, metaphorical way, American writers tend toward an expressive register commensurate with the open spaces and endless distances of our continent; Perec's magnitude is no less great, but his vastness is essentially urban, highly structured, and by necessity constrained, entailing complex negotiations and yielding delight in serendipity, surprise, and incongruity.

    Art and Culture

  • Cooperation with other more northerly atmospheric weather patterns or oscillations and a little serendipity is needed to get an exceptionally snowy winter.

    Why was last year so snowy? Part I

  • The accidental discovery of a new idea is called serendipity.

    Diffusion of Innovations

  • Not to actually equate Alberta's avarice in serendipity with slavery, of course.

    i'm just saying

  • Sometimes serendipity is a factor in the projects I pick.

    SBQOTW

  • You can read Chapter 1 of The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science, by Robert K. Merton and Elinor Barber, here From the names of cruise lines and bookstores to an Australian ranch and a nudist camp outside of Atlanta, the word serendipity—that happy blend of wisdom and luck by which something is discovered not quite by accident—is today ubiquitous.

    languagehat.com: LINKS FROM ALDI.

  • This was also my first exercise in serendipity, (the art of looking for something and finding something else), because I was not after a mercury lamp but after a cadmium lamp, and that was not a success.

    Dennis Gabor - Autobiography

Comments

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  • I found this word in an article called "Three days in the Sri Lanka", by Nathan Myers. It is used in the sentence as followed, "Sri Lanka in Arabic is called serendib meaning serendipity."

    September 22, 2010

  • It would be an unexpected stroke of luck to find that 103 other Wordies listed this word for the first time today before a certain other word was listed again.

    September 15, 2009

  • It looks like all of the "how it's used" examples are taken from the 1999 movie "Dogma", where Serendipity was the name of Salma Hayak's character. Unfortunately, this give no sense of how the word is used.

    March 26, 2009

  • The opposite being zemblanity.

    March 18, 2009

  • Bodhi, serendipity is our Lucksmith.

    October 13, 2008

  • Ohmygod this word is so foul. So sticky. Ugh.

    October 13, 2008

  • Oh wait, never mind, I've worked it out

    June 16, 2008

  • What's the not-nice one, bilb?

    June 16, 2008

  • The nice s-word.

    June 16, 2008

  • If "The Three Princes of Serendip" had been written much later, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale could have starred in "Ceylonity" or even "Srilankanity."

    February 25, 2008

  • I recall it was because the Brothers from Serendip always got lucky, because they were in the right place at the right time.

    Have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Princes_of_Serendip, it's really cool

    November 23, 2007

  • September 19, 2007

  • We have absolutely nothing like that in Finnish. Life moves in serendipitous ways. Which is good.

    June 25, 2007

  • Oh, how I wonder how popular this word is...

    February 19, 2007

  • Like the mooV

    December 10, 2006

  • Why are the forces for the universe set the way they are? Why am I so happy? Why did I catch the train today? Some will say that these are merely coincidences that had to happen to somebody. But others will reply: Yes, but they didn't have to happen to us. That there is so much happiness in our world; that we have these little, fortuitous, coincidences; truly, we have serendipity.

    December 3, 2006

  • Like the island.

    December 2, 2006