Definitions

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

  • n. A change or variation.
  • n. The quality of being changeable; mutability.
  • n. One of the sudden or unexpected changes or shifts often encountered in one's life, activities, or surroundings. Often used in the plural. See Synonyms at difficulty.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Regular change or succession from one thing to another, or one part of a cycle to the next; alternation; mutual succession; interchange.
  • n. a change, especially in one's life or fortunes.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Regular change or succession from one thing to another; alternation; mutual succession; interchange.
  • n. Irregular change; revolution; mutation.
  • n. Changing conditions of fortune in one's life; life's ups and downs.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Regular change or succession of one thing to another; alternation.
  • n. A passing from one state or condition to another; irregular change; revolution; mutation: as, the vicissitudes of fortune.

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

  • n. mutability in life or nature (especially successive alternation from one condition to another)
  • n. a variation in circumstances or fortune at different times in your life or in the development of something

Etymologies

Latin vicissitūdō, from vicissim, in turn, probably from vicēs, pl. of *vix, change; see weik-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin vicissitudo ("change"), from vicissim ("on the other hand, in turn"), from vicis ("change, vicissitude"), whence Spanish vez and French fois ("time (as in next time), occurrence"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The fact, of course, is that it is just the variety of experience which makes life interesting, -- toil and rest, pain and relief, hope and satisfaction, danger and security, -- and if we once remove the idea of vicissitude from life, it all becomes an indolent and uninspiring affair.

    Escape, and Other Essays

  • And here we see, by a kind of vicissitude and return, it kindles hell itself for the calumniator.

    Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions. Vol. V.

  • Surprised By Joy, composed some time after her death, is the most touching of elegies, the movement of the verse mirroring the movement of the body, heart and mind, the simplicity of diction shockingly enriched by the Latinate "vicissitude".

    The Guardian World News

  • Never, in the days of vicissitude that came later, did Taiwun doubt my claim of Korean birth.

    Chapter 15

  • All of us to a greater or lesser degree have a streak of psychopathy which makes every vicissitude of human experience – including our own – potential writing fodder.

    Eyeball to eyeball (with tooth-sucking….) « Write Anything

  • All of us to a greater or lesser degree have a streak of psychopathy which makes every vicissitude of human experience – including our own – potential writing fodder ….

    Eyeball to eyeball (with tooth-sucking….) « Write Anything

  • In a letter to his son written in 1537, he looked back on a life of vicissitude; "a thousand dangers and hazards, enmities, hatreds, prisonments, despites and indignations".

    The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt by Nicola Shulman - review

  • It is given that travail and vicissitude mark time to man's footsteps as he stumbles onward toward the grave; and it is well.

    The Dignity of Dollars

  • I followed her like a duckling, learning how to glide smoothly upon the waters of writerly vicissitude.

    Lisa Jones: Truck Stop Book Tour

  • Then in a resonant, pedantic tone, reminiscent of the age, the art restorer snarls: Damn fools — perception rests on guarded obliqueness — destitute meandering of sight — guttural vicissitude kept well hidden behind the eye allows us to envision cold tomorrows without the trumpeting of the glib future — Bob interrupts her: Who are you?

    Smoke and Mirrors

Comments

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  • From p. 24 of Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time to Keep Silence":

    The library was beautifully kept, and, considering the Abbey's vicissitudes, enormous.

    January 21, 2014

  • I read this in Ironside by Holly Black, " the moment was vicissitude. "

    October 1, 2010

  • In episode three, season three of True Blood, the character named Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi, says this word with a deep southern drawl. You can tell he really relishes the sound of the word.

    The King speaks of how much Bill loves Sookie and lets him know that if Bill doesn't turn her into a vampire, then "the alternative is to subject her to the vicissitudes of mortality and to the mercy of forces such as, for instance... me."

    July 9, 2010

  • "Vicissitudes are boxing our heads,
    Like they just want to emaciate them forever."
    -"Suffer for Fashion," Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

    November 22, 2007