Meaning of ACCIDENTAL in English

I. |aksə|dent ə l adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from accident + -al

1. : arising from or produced by extrinsic, secondary, or additional causes or forces : not innate, intrinsic, or of the real nature of : nonessential

some of the colors were mineral, in the rock itself: but others were accidental due to water from the melting snow — T.E.Lawrence

whether this paralogistic procedure is essential or accidental to his doctrine — T.H.Green

2. : occurring sometimes with unfortunate results by chance alone:

a. : unpredictable : proceeding from an unrecognized principle, from an uncommon operation of a known principle, or from a deviation from normal

b. : happening or ensuing without design, intent, or obvious motivation or through inattention or carelessness

accidental collision

accidental shooting

accidental loss

3. : having reference to a logical accident : not essential : contingent , extrinsic

being dark-haired is an accidental property of a man — Arthur Pap

4. : relating to an accidental in music or to its prefixed sign

5. of a bird : found outside the normal geographic range or season

a common migrant, accidental in winter


fortuitous , adventitious , contingent , casual , incidental : when it is used in reference to events, accidental may stress lack of intent or indicate an unusual operation of natural causes

so plain that Thady's presence … was accidental, and that the attack could not have been premeditated — Anthony Trollope

In reference to qualities, accidental indicates absence of an essential or innate characteristic

their search for the typical and their avoidance of anything that might be considered accidental — John Dewey

fortuitous stresses chance and minimizes the idea of definite analyzable cause

I do not look upon public events either as fortuitous or absolutely derivable either from the wisdom or folly of man — William Cowper

adventitious stresses the extrinsic, additional, irrelevant, or nonessential

regular repetition of forms, uniformly spaced, the architect depending only upon adventitious ornamentation for variety — John Dewey

in works of imagination and sentiment … meter is but adventitious to composition — William Wordsworth

contingent stresses unpredictability and uncertainty, especially in future events

countless contingent difficulties … many of which must necessarily arise, though the exact nature of them could not be anticipated — J.A.Froude

It also indicates dependence on something else for existence or occurrence

the resistance that we may meet with is contingent on the enemy's continued strength

incidental stresses a secondary or minor nature, regardless of manner of origin

war … the comprehensive business of the German … to the British … was an incidental adventure — H.G.Wells

casual stresses dependence on chance and lack of prearrangement or predictability

it was no casual reencounter. He had been enticed into the place — J.A.Froude

the causal allusion, the chance reference — Henry Adams

casual and incidental may indicate occurrences actually planned and intended but presented as if by chance

the pupil must be aroused … his curiosity must be awakened by an incidental explanation, a casual remark — C.H.Grandgent

II. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, from accidental, adjective

1. logic : a nonessential property

2. : nonessential


a. : a chromatically altered note (as a sharp or flat) in a musical composition that is usually foreign to the key indicated by the signature

b. : the prefixed sign (as ♯ or ♭) indicating a chromatically altered note

4. : warp ends not usually included in the treadling pattern in hand weaving

5. : a fingerprint showing two or more pattern types or other peculiarities making classification difficult

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.