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Definition for serendipity from the online version of Webster's Dictionary:

serendipity n: accidental sagacity; the faculty of making fortunate discoveries of things you were not looking for

Actually the term is derived from an old name for the island of Sri Lanka, Serendip. Horace Walpole wrote a story about three princes travelling around Serendip, finding marvellous things even though they weren't looking for them.

There is a word that appears repeatedly in scientific literature - serendipity. Coined by English writer Horace Walpole in 1754, the term refers to the heroes of a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, who wandered freely and were forever "making discoveries by accidents and sagacity of things they were not in quest of."

-- Serendipity & Science

Definition for serendipity from the Oxford English Dictionary:

[f. Serendip, a former name for Ceylon + ITY

A word coined by Horace Walpole, who says (Let. to Mann, of Jan 1754) that he had formed it upon the title of the fairy-tale 'The Three Princes of Serendip', the heroes of which 'were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of'.]

The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident

...1880 E. SOLLY Index Titles of Honour Pref. 5 The inquirer was at fault and it was not until some weeks later, when by the aid of Serendipity, as Horace Walpole called it --that is, by looking for one thing and finding another-- that the explanation was accidentally found.

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Last revision: 2002-12-18 CE

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