Meaning of CHANCE in English


I. ˈchan(t)s, -aa(ə)-, -ai-, -ȧ- noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French cheance, chance, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin cadentia fall, from Latin cadent-, cadens, present participle of cadere to fall; akin to Sanskrit śad to fall and probably to Welsh cesair hailstones


a. : something that happens unpredictably without any discernible human intention or direction and in dissociation from any observable pattern, causal relation, natural necessity, or providential dispensation

this is a strange chance that throws you and me together — Charles Dickens

when the chances of war make him again the spokesman of the majority — B.N.Cardozo

b. archaic : such a happening or happenings affecting human well-being in a particular way

hard chance they had, and lots of 'em died, I guess — Sarah O. Jewett

c. : the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of such unaccountable happenings and of the outcome of uncertain situations involving alternatives unavailable to human choice : luck

whatever be my chance or my mischance — Robert Browning

sane persons who by chance or by evil design have been confined in a lunatic asylum — C.H.Grandgent

my experience as a historian is that more documents survive by chance than by intention — Robert Graves

games in which chance predominates over skill are used for gambling

d. : the fortuitous or incalculable element in phenomenal existence : contingent — compare tychism

2. : a circumstantial situation affording the possibility of effectuating some objective : opportunity:

a. : an opportunity typically offering problematical success if taken and afforded either by luck or accident or by an equitable arrangement

a chance for the community to take a hand in punishing a somewhat contemptible malefactor — Agnes Repplier

the feeling that the system under which we live deprives the majority of the chance of a decent life — C.D.Lewis

b. : an opening for a try, venture, or grasp

10 years after his death historians will get a chance at his personal file

c. : a suitable space of time or set of conditions for allowing some process to take place : opportunity

the people had not had a chance to become indoctrinated

giving the wound a chance to heal

d. : an opportunity given by a batsman to a fielder in cricket to put the batsman out

e. : a fielding opportunity in baseball

the shortstop fumbled on a hard chance

specifically : any play by a player on defense that is scored as a put-out, assist, or error

handling 200 chances without an error



(1) : the possibility of an indicated or a favorable outcome in an uncertain situation

(2) : the measure or strength of possiblility or degree of likelihood of such an outcome

what chance has he of pulling through

we have practically no chance of winning

— often used in plural

dubious of his chances on the lottery ticket

— compare probability 3

b. : a possibility that an indicated or likely future happening, condition, or combination of circumstances will come to pass

until I thought I had eliminated all chance of error — David Fairchild

and if you guarantee a chance , it is no longer a chance ; it is a sinecure — C.W.Mills

go ahead with the printing on the chance that no major correction may prove necessary

c. : at least a tenuous possibility of experiencing a favorable outcome or an escape from a hazard

well, no matter what they think they have on me, I stand a chance in court — William Faulkner

d. : ground for hope or expectation : prospect

to me, the best chance for future society lies through apathy, uninventiveness, and inertia — E.M.Forster

e. chances plural : the more likely or weighty indications issuing from an overall estimate of the various possible outcomes or facts eventually to emerge — often used without the definite article

the chances are that no one who opens the book will skip a page

chances are he has already heard the news

4. : a gamble or risk of a looked-for or a favorable but quite indeterminable outcome of a hazardous situation entered voluntarily or involuntarily — usually following the verb take

a man bold enough to take his chances — F.B.Gipson

they took a long chance , and they made it — Shine Philips

especially : such a risk voluntarily undertaken in a gambling game

lost his money taking chances in local lotteries

5. Midland

a. : a quantity, number, or distance usually specified as large

a right smart chance of corn

b. : sample , specimen


a. : a forest location suitable for a logging operation

b. : a unit of such operation


fortune , luck , hap , hazard , accident : chance is a general term indicating the force that governs issues unpredictably, unanalyzably, without being determined by strict causes or by causes determined by human intent or consideration

we may say that two or more phenomena are conjoined by chance … meaning that they are in no way related by causation — J.S.Mill

chance may stress blind, random, utter unpredictability

he had felt no will to resist, but had let chance take its way — Willa Cather

the gun … wavered as he raised it and fired, but chance came to his assistance — Sherwood Anderson

fortune in this sense may be associated with the notion of the goddess Fortuna, a subdeity who capriciously and inconsistently apportioned men's differing allotments of wealth and power

not only, to carry out Bacon's conception, does a man who marries give hostages to fortune, but also he who accumulates objects of value; for each affords occasions for Fortune's malice — Herbert Spencer

luck is quite similar to fortune in this sense; it differs mainly in being less formal and bookish than fortune and, sometimes, in being more applicable to one specific situation

luck operates in most departments of human affairs … Read the autobiographies of businessmen and gather from those who are frank their examples of the lucky break — Lydia Strong

Without modification, luck is likely to indicate a favoring force, a beneficial one

with luck and the help of atomic research, our children may be safe from this grim disease — A.E.Stevenson b. 1900

hap , now rare, is rather colorless and neutral, and is limited in its use to reference to things past

we had the good hap to meet with some young deer, a thing we had long wished for — Daniel Defoe

hazard indicates either more or less pure chance

the choice has been determined more by the hazards of my recent reading than by anything else — Aldous Huxley

or chance involving much risk or danger

it is much more difficult for small business to survive the hazards which come from trade recessions and widespread unemployment — H.S.Truman

accident stresses lack of essential cause; it may differ from chance in suggesting an occurrence or event rather than the blind force motivating it

only an occasional accident, such as the discovery of some chemically preserved textiles — American Guide Series: Ind.

Synonym: see in addition opportunity .

- by chance

II. verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English chancen, from chance, n.

intransitive verb


a. : to take place or come about by chance without intention or direction : happen

it chanced that the winter of 1783-84 was a very severe one — H.E.Scudder

b. : to be found or to prove by chance or fortuitous occurrence

let me know if there should chance to be another book with the same title

c. : to have the luck, the ill fortune, or the indifferent fortune

a mumbled conversation I chanced to hear in the subway

d. obsolete : to come about — used after interrogative how

how chance this was not done before — Christopher Marlowe

2. : to come or light by chance especially casually and unexpectedly — used with upon

Shakespeare chanced upon the best time and country in which to live — G.M.Trevelyan

transitive verb

1. : to leave to chance the outcome, disposal, or ordering of

I know the course has dangerous curves but I'll chance one descent


a. : to accept whatever may through chance eventuate from (an action or choice)

hesitant whether to chance commitment to a world government

b. Britain : to accept the uncertainties of (one's luck)

3. : to accept the hazard of : risk

it was decided to withdraw rather than chance defeat in enemy territory — T.R.Hay

Synonyms: see happen , venture

- chance one's arm

III. adverb

Etymology: probably by shortening

archaic : by chance

IV. adjective

Etymology: chance (I)

: happening, made, experienced, or encountered by chance, without forethought, plan, or intention : accidental , contingent

by a charming accident he had disposed of them to a chance buyer in Bainbridge — Arnold Bennett

living on the chance presents of his friends — Anthony Trollope

Synonyms: see random

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