Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Serendipity

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is serendipity. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Serendipity is luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.

// We found the restaurant by pure serendipity, rather than careful research, but it turned out to be the best deal in town.


“One of the things I find so fascinating about New York Times Cooking is that reading one recipe often leads me to another, and the serendipity leads me to make something entirely different from what I had intended to make when I logged on.” — Sam Sifton, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2022

Did You Know?

The word serendipity did not come about by luck; rather, it was intentionally coined by 18th century author Horace Walpole, who was eager to share a happenstance discovery he had made while researching a coat of arms. In a letter to his friend Horace Mann he wrote: “This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavor to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of …” Walpole’s memory of the tale (which, as luck would have it, was not quite accurate) gave serendipity the meaning it retains to this day.

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