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Pronunciation: se-rên-dip-ê-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. The act of making a fortunate discovery by capricious or quixotic accidence. 2. The discovery of one thing while looking for another.

Notes: Serendipitous is the adjective, and serendipitously, the adverb that accompanies today's noun. A person given to serendipitous discovery is a serendipitist, if you want to push the derivations that far. Serendipity is a word that is a bit ironic and often slightly misused. For a discovery to be serendipitous, you must not be looking for the object of the discovery in any way; in fact, you might even be looking for something else.

In Play: It is not serendipitous that the cookbook you ordered arrives the day of the big dinner to which you invited your boss. This is just good luck. However, if you spoil the sauce for your cutlets and your boss's wife turns out to be a gourmet chef at a French restaurant who would just love to help out, you are then dipping into the serendipity. "What serendipity! I was looking for my car keys and stumbled across a pair of glasses I lost last year."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip by the 18th-century British author Horace Walpole. The three princes were always making fortuitous discoveries of things they were not looking for. Serendip was the former name of Sri Lanka. (If it wasn't serendipity it was certainly our great good fortune that Vicenzo suggested today's quirky little bit of lexical caprice.)

Dr. Goodword,

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