The happenstance of making a fortunate discovery by accident; a happy accident.
Serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford and an English art historian in a letter he wrote in 1754. In the letter he told of a Persian fairy tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip” the heroes of which “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest for”. The name Serendip is the old name for Ceylon, modern Sri Lanka, in old Sanskrit (stemming from Simhaladvia) meaning the Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island.
Why this word?
Let’s just be honest- because it is annoying. When we are desperately looking for something, if a lost object at home, an important quotation for school or a valuable client for work, spending hours on edge, and having the best student or most successful co-worker finding it by mistake. If you are asking me- occasions of serendipity ruin my day at least twice a week; I may as well have a word for it!
How to use serendipity?
The 2001 feature “Serendipity”, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, tells the story of a couple reuniting years after the night they first met, fell in love and separated; the two were convinced one day they will meet again. Serendipitously, they met indeed.
There are many ways in which you can use this word, as broadly this is yet another word for luck. You can say “I found you by pure serendipity” when referring to your loved one; or generally “finding this was an extraordinary bit of serendipity”.