As the article about “Pulchritude” was well received, the Word of the Day series is continued. Today’s Word of the Day isn’t as obsolete as “pulchritude”, quite the contrary; it appeared rather recently in the English language. This word was chosen because of its exotic etymology, as it takes its roots in faraway Sri Lanka. Let’s talk about “serendipity”.
The word serendipity is quite recent: it was first created in 1754, however it was not commonly used until the early 1900s and had to wait until the 50s to really become popular.
The noun “serendipity” was coined by art historian Horace Walpole in a letter that he wrote to a friend in which he spoke of an unexpected discovery he had made. He created “serendipity” from the word Serendip which was an old name for Sri Lanka, the name Serendip itself coming from Persian Sarândip, which originated from the Sanskrit dvīpa meaning “island”. According to his letter, Horace Walpole chose to use this word in reference to a Persian story, The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, serendipity is “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. The Oxford Dictionaries defines serendipity as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. The very positive meaning of the word, associated with fortunate discoveries and happy outcomes led to it being sometimes used as a synonym for luck.
An adjective, ‘serendipitous’, and an adverb ‘serendipitously’, were also derived from the noun ‘serendipity’.
These words can be used in sentences such as:
She had the serendipity of getting her driving license on her first try.
This discovery was totally serendipitous.
So, are you feeling serendipitous today?