serendipity

noun

ser·​en·​dip·​i·​ty ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē How to pronounce serendipity (audio)
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
also : an instance of this

Frequently Asked Questions

Are serendipity and fate related?

Serendipity and fate differ in meaning in a number of important ways. The former is defined as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for," and while fate likewise may be concerned with "something that happens to a person," it need not be (in fact, often is not) pleasant. Among the meanings of fate are "an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end," "final outcome," and "the circumstances that befall someone or something."

What is the difference between serendipity and luck?

There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as "a force that brings good fortune or adversity," "success," and "the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual"). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.

How is serendipity used in other parts of speech?

Serendipity is a noun, coined in the middle of the 18th century by author Horace Walpole (he took it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip). The adjective form is serendipitous, and the adverb is serendipitously. A serendipitist is "one who finds valuable or agreeable things not sought for."

Example Sentences

As they leapfrog from South Africa to Singapore in search of local delicacies, the authors prove again and again that serendipity is the traveler's strongest ally: many of their most memorable meals issue from the hands of generous strangers … Sarah Karnasiewicz, Saveur, June/July 2008 If reporters fail to keep these files, they seldom luck into bigger stories. Their investigative work typically happens only by design—analyzing the news, for instance—not by serendipity. Michael J. Bugeja, Editor & Publisher, 13 Jan. 2003 A week earlier, the doctor would have had no recourse but to make an incision in the baby's skin to get to a vein—a precarious option now, since time was running short and it would take nearly half an hour to assemble the necessary equipment. But in an extraordinary bit of serendipity, Hanson had attended a seminar on emergency medical care for children just a week before. David Ruben, Parenting, December/January 1996 They found each other by pure serendipity.
Recent Examples on the Web Now, however, archaeologists believe there wasn’t so much serendipity involved. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Nov. 2022 Like most major lifestyle shifts, this will probably owe more to innovation and serendipity than to governmental decree. Eben Weiss, Outside Online, 9 Nov. 2022 Still, the serendipity of these two investigations unfolding in tandem was uncanny. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, 8 Nov. 2022 The backstory to the tap-dance career of LaDeva Davis (1944-2022), like so much in her life, has the richness and serendipity of myth. Susan Orlean, The New Yorker, 28 Sep. 2022 Castro stumbled upon Haupt through sheer serendipity. Laura Zornosa, Time, 23 Sep. 2022 In fact, the connection between Eddie's tattoos and his storyline was simply a case of some serious serendipity. Emlyn Travis, EW.com, 20 Aug. 2022 Sometimes, serendipity played a role in his work as a historian. Glenn Rifkin, Washington Post, 8 Aug. 2022 There is a lot of hard work but also a little serendipity. Alixel Cabrera, The Salt Lake Tribune, 9 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'serendipity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip

First Known Use

1754, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of serendipity was in 1754

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Dictionary Entries Near serendipity

Cite this Entry

“Serendipity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

serendipity

noun

ser·​en·​dip·​i·​ty ˌser-ən-ˈdip-ət-ē How to pronounce serendipity (audio)
: the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not looked for

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