Serendipitous moments are part of life. When and how they happen is something no one can ever ascertain. Unsurprisingly, there are many who also don’t know how to use the word in a given sentence.
To properly use the word “serendipity” in a sentence, it’s imperative to know the word’s meaning. Since “serendipity” and “luck” mean similar things, it’s easy to confuse between the two words. Winning the lottery is pure luck but accidentally finding a winning lottery ticket is serendipitous.
Keep reading to get an in-depth understanding of one of the most beloved English words, the significance of getting its meaning right, a list of sentences featuring the word, the difference between luck and serendipity, etc.
Serendipity – Definition
Serendipity means making fortunate or pleasant discoveries by chance. For example, finding a $100 bill in the pocket of a worn-out suit jacket is serendipity. Finding a pen under a desk in an exam hall only to realize you were not carrying a pen yourself is also a serendipitous moment.
Though the act of discovering something pleasantly surprising is mere chance, there is a school of thought that affirms some individuals experience serendipity more than others. Perhaps this is where the “law of serendipity” comes into the picture.
As per the law, serendipity is not just a pleasant accident. It, in fact, is believed to be one of the several laws of the universe. The “serendipity law” states the universe will bend in your direction by affording you with seemingly unexpected and accidental fortuitous events.
The Origin of the Word “Serendipity”
The word “serendipity”, unlike a lot of English words, is not a Latin or Greek term. The word was coined during the mid-1700s by an English writer, Horace Walpole. He first used the word in a letter dated 28 January 1754.
Walpole was a historian, prolific letter writer, and an antiquarian. Walpole is, in fact, often credited with having given “letter-writing” an artistic flair. He is remembered for his many works of writing. However, the letter with the word “serendipity” in it managed to stand out from the rest of his excellent works.
Horace Walpole was the son of Robert Walpole, who was Britain’s first prime minister. Horace loved playing with words. He popularized, if not invented, quite a few new words during his time. It’s very difficult (almost impossible) to prove that Walpole invented different words, as there is no written or documented evidence. However, “serendipity” was most certainly invented by him, thanks to the aforementioned letter.
It’s believed Walpole got the inspiration for the word “serendipity” from the fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The fairy tale dates back more than a thousand years. The term “Serendip” means Sri Lanka in Old Persian. The letter in which Walpole first used “serendipity” also has the mention of the Persian fairy tale.
The fairy tale was about three princes traveling and discovering things (they weren’t on the quest of) accidentally. The princes take their forensic deduction or curiosity to a deeper level, getting into trouble as a consequence. Good fortune intervening and helping them get out of the difficult situations is what the story is broadly about. The story, in fact, is considered among the original detective tales in existence.
Walpole has supposedly invented more than 200 English words. However, most of those words are largely unknown or not very commonly used – for instance, “robberaceously” and “balloonomania”. Serendipity experienced a similar fate for quite some time until it picked up pace over a period and went into wide circulation, subsequently escaping obscurity. The word was rarely used until the dawn of the 20th century.
The adjective “serendipitous” came about a decade or two later, with its first documented usage being in 1910. The word showed up in a book that talked about fishing. Walpole never used the word “serendipitous”. It’s believed the adjective may have been accidentally coined.
Words Based on “Serendipity”
Besides its adjective form, the term “serendipity” also has a few more words predicated on it – namely, “serendipper” and “serendipitist”. The word “serendipper” is a noun that denotes an individual who possesses the mental capability of making both unexpected and fortunate accidents happen. The noun is used exclusively in the United States, however.
“Serendipitist” is considered serendipper’s British equivalent. The word was first used, or coined, by James Joyce, the Irish writer, in his book, Finnegans Wake (1939).
In a lexicographical world, a widely recognized word should have its antonym or a word that is its exact opposite. The word “serendipity” did not have an antonym for quite some time. And that’s no surprise since its adjective form came about more than 150 years after “serendipity” was first documented as a word.
In 1998, William Boyd used the word “zemblanity” to serve as an antonym for or complement “serendipity”. Zemblanity is defined as making unlucky, unhappy, and unexpected discoveries. The word derives inspiration from Novaya Zemlya, one of the Arctic Archipelagos where William Barents, the Dutch explorer, and his team were stranded during the 1590s.
A year after the coinage, in 1999, Toby J. Sommers invented the word “bahramdipity” to refer to the suppression associated with serendipitous discoveries. The term takes inspiration from Bahram Gur, the name of the king who sentenced the three Serendip princes to death as per the fairy tale mentioned above. According to Sommers, “bahramdipity” refers to the squashing of a discovery, at times a serendipitous discovery.
How to Properly Use “Serendipity” in a Sentence
In 2004, a Britain-based translation firm declared “serendipity” as one of the 10 extremely difficult words in English to translate. A lot of people who use the word every now and again do not even get the meaning of the word right in their sentences. Quite a few, in fact, misinterpret it for something else or interchangeably use the word with “luck”, which is incorrect.
“Serendipity”, as a word, has not been around for many centuries. That, however, is no excuse to not use it correctly or judiciously. The sentence’s context or what it intends to communicate must be taken into consideration before you throw in “serendipity” in it. Knowing the correct meaning of the word will significantly help too.
In current usage, serendipity has a couple of related meanings:
- Looking for a particular thing and discovering something much better
- Looking for a certain thing (usually half-heartedly) and finding the exact thing you needed
Several drugs in the past were all moments of serendipity for the concerned medical researchers. For instance, Viagra was found accidentally while the research team was carrying out a test on a new anti-angina and anti-hypertensive drug. The male subjects were testing the drug on reported enhanced and prolonged erections. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Example Sentences Using the Word “Serendipity”
The following is a list of sentences that showcase how the word “serendipity” could be used in different ways:
- Meeting my best friend out of nowhere after almost a decade was true serendipity.
- They are machines for ingenuity, collaboration, and serendipity.
- It is certainly an interesting tale about serendipity.
- Then happened one of those strange acts of serendipity, making the book tour and the writing life all worth it in the end.
- I was considering different ways to better connect with the audience, and with some inspiration and serendipity, I sailed through just fine.
- You will also find out synchronicity’s benefits, which is at times referred to as serendipity or coincidence.
Difference Between Serendipity and Good Luck
The words “serendipity” and “good luck” are different from each other. Someone is called “lucky” if they manage to escape or come out of a perilous situation unscathed. Such good fortune is not the same as serendipity.
A serendipitous moment is one where gifts of fortune occur by chance without any extraordinary hazard set as backdrop. The gift should have not occupied the thoughts of the person but should make them feel happy or pleasantly surprised upon receipt.
For instance, an old man writing a young chap his estate just because the young guy rescued him from drowning is a serendipitous moment for the young dude. The young man is not “lucky” because he was in no distress to start with. Also, the estate was a gift he was not expecting for his good deed.
The old guy, on the contrary, can be considered “lucky” because he was in trouble and had to bail himself out. If it wasn’t his luck or good fortune, he would have most likely drowned to death.
For the “serendipitous” moment to feel like so, the individual at the receiving end of it should feel elated with the unexpected event and should also feel the inner desire or need for the gift. If you consider the above example, the young individual was more than pleased for being bestowed an estate as a prize for his noble act. It’s, therefore, a moment of serendipity for him.
In a poll conducted in 2000, “serendipity” was voted Britain’s favorite word, defeating “quidditch” and pushing it to second place. Harry Potter fans should be familiar with “quidditch”, which is a fictional game/sport invented by the book’s author, J.K. Rowling. If you are not using the word the correct way, your readers are most likely going to notice it – particularly your British patrons.