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Avoid these words. Seriously.


[chans, chahns] /tʃæns, tʃɑns/
the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency:
Chance governs all.
luck or fortune:
a game of chance.
a possibility or probability of anything happening:
a fifty-percent chance of success.
an opportune or favorable time; opportunity:
Now is your chance.
Baseball. an opportunity to field the ball and make a put-out or assist.
a risk or hazard:
Take a chance.
a share or ticket in a lottery or prize drawing:
The charity is selling chances for a dollar each.
chances, probability:
The chances are that the train hasn't left yet.
Midland and Southern U.S. a quantity or number (usually followed by of).
Archaic. an unfortunate event; mishap.
verb (used without object), chanced, chancing.
to happen or occur by chance:
It chanced that our arrivals coincided.
verb (used with object), chanced, chancing.
to take the chances or risks of; risk (often followed by impersonal it):
I'll have to chance it, whatever the outcome.
not planned or expected; accidental:
a chance occurrence.
Verb phrases
chance on/upon, to come upon by chance; meet unexpectedly:
She chanced on a rare kind of mushroom during her walk through the woods.
by chance, without plan or intent; accidentally:
I met her again by chance in a department store in Paris.
on the chance, in the mild hope or against the possibility:
I'll wait on the chance that she'll come.
on the off chance, in the very slight hope or against the very slight possibility.
Origin of chance
1250-1300; Middle English < Old French chance, cheance < Vulgar Latin *cadentia a befalling, happening; see cadenza
Related forms
chanceless, adjective
unchanced, adjective
2. accident, fortuity. 3. contingency. 4. opening. 11. befall. See happen. 13. casual, fortuitous.
1. necessity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for chance
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He took a cab and was driven to the local branch of his favourite temple of chance.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Without reasons I was sure of, you know, so there could be no chance of any mistake.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • But if she had any such thing I'm sure it was ended, and she'd have jumped at this chance a year ago.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • And what avails skill in music, if there is no chance to display it?

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • Will you take care of some money for me until I get a chance to deposit it in the savings bank?

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
British Dictionary definitions for chance


  1. the unknown and unpredictable element that causes an event to result in a certain way rather than another, spoken of as a real force
  2. (as modifier): a chance meeting, related adjective fortuitous
fortune; luck; fate
an opportunity or occasion
a risk; gamble: you take a chance with his driving
the extent to which an event is likely to occur; probability
an unpredicted event, esp a fortunate one: that was quite a chance, finding him here
(archaic) an unlucky event; mishap
by chance
  1. accidentally: he slipped by chance
  2. perhaps: do you by chance have a room?
chances are…, the chances are…, it is likely (that) …
on the chance, acting on the possibility; in case
the main chance, the opportunity for personal gain (esp in the phrase an eye to the main chance)
(transitive) to risk; hazard: I'll chance the worst happening
to happen by chance; be the case by chance: I chanced to catch sight of her as she passed
chance on, chance upon, to come upon by accident: he chanced on the solution to his problem
chance one's arm, to attempt to do something although the chance of success may be slight
Derived Forms
chanceful, adjective
chanceless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French cheance, from cheoir to fall, occur, from Latin cadere
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for chance

c.1300, "something that takes place, what happens, an occurrence" (good or bad, but more often bad), from Old French cheance "accident, chance, fortune, luck, situation, the falling of dice" (12c., Modern French chance), from Vulgar Latin *cadentia "that which falls out," a term used in dice, from neuter plural of Latin cadens, present participle of cadere "to fall" (see case (n.1)).

In English frequently in plural, chances. The word's notions of "opportunity" and "randomness" are as old as the record of it in English and now all but crowd out the word's original notion of "mere occurrence." Main chance "thing of most importance" is from 1570s, bearing the older sense. The mathematical (and hence odds-making) sense is attested from 1778. To stand a chance (or not) is from 1796.

To take (one's) chances "accept what happens" (early 14c.) is from the old, neutral sense; to take a chance/take chances is originally (by 1814) "participate in a raffle or lottery or game;" extended sense of "take a risk" is by 1826.


late 14c., "to come about, to happen," from chance (n.). Meaning "to risk" attested from 1859. Related: Chanced; chancing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for chance
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with chance
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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