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Word of the Day
Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Definitions for serendipity

  1. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.
  2. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

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Citations for serendipity
You, Mister Lipwig, are useful and a conduit for serendipity. For example, I understand you have just blessed us with more goblins at a time when we need them. Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam, 2013
Do some people have a special talent for serendipity? And if so, why? Pagan Kennedy, "How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity," New York Times, January 2, 2016
Origin of serendipity
Serendipity was the felicitous invention of the English man of letters Horace Walpole (1717-97), who wrote it in a letter dated 28 January 1754, explaining that his coinage came from The Three Princes of Serendip in an English translation of a French translation of an Italian translation of a Persian fairy tale based on the life of a Sassanid (Persian) king of the fourth century a.d. The three princely heroes of the story had the knack for making desirable discoveries by accident. Walpole calls the story a "silly fairy tale," but that silly fairy tale was picked up by the French philosophe and writer Voltaire (1698-1778) in his novel Zadig ou la Destinée (Zadig, Or the Book of Destiny, 1747), whose hero, Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia, engages in detective work in which he infers unseen, unknown causes from visible effects. It is at least possible that Zadig influenced Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) in his “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841). It is certain that Zadig influenced the English biologist, writer, and proponent of Darwinism Thomas Huxley (1825-95), whose article "On the Method of Zadig" (1880) praised Zadig’s methodology. The proper name Serendip (also Serendib) comes from Sarāndīb, the Arabic name for the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon), from Persian Sarândîp, from Pali Sīhaḷadīpa, from Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpa “island of the Sinhalese people” (dīpa means “island” in Pali and the Sinhalese language, both from Sanskrit dvīpa “island”).