Printable Version
Pronunciation: hæp-ên-stæns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A chance happening, a fortuitous circumstance or situation.

Notes: Today's word is an amalgam or blend of two words, happening and circumstance. Blends are words that are created by smushing two words together while adding up their meanings. Other examples include smog (smoke + fog), motel (motor + hotel), brunch (breakfast + lunch).

In Play: Happenstance is usually an event or state that arose out by pure luck: "Anita Job found her new position by sheer happenstance: she applied for it the day it opened up by sheer chance." Happenstance is a good excuse for much of what happens around us: "So it was happenstance that the cookie jar fell off the counter; no one put their hand in it, right?"

Word History: This word is a blend of happen[ing + circum]stance. Happening is, of course, the noun from happen. This verb, in turn, is built on the noun hap "fortune, happening", which Middle English borrowed from Old Norse happ. The sense of "fortune" made its way into happy, hapless and mishap. Circumstance comes from circumstan(t)s, the present participle of circumstare "to stand around", so that a circumstance is the surroundings, things that stand around an event or situation. (Today's word is a contribution of Doug Coppock, whose musical group just happens to be called Happenstance. )

Dr. Goodword,

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