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  • First attested in the late 14th century.
  • (grammar): First attested in the mid 15th century.
  • From Latin accidentia (accidental matters), from accidens, present participle of accidere (to happen)


  • IPA(key): /ˈæk.sə.dəns/, /ˈæk.sə.dɛns/, /ˈæk.sə.dənts/, /ˈæk.sə.dɛnts/


accidence (countable and uncountable, plural accidences)

  1. (grammar) The accidents or inflections of words; the rudiments of grammar.
    • 1627, John Brinsley, Ludus Literarius; or, The Grammar Schoole, London: John Bellamie, p. xiii,[1]
      To teach Schollars how to bee able to reade well, and write true Orthography, in a short space. 2. To make them ready in all points of Accedence and Grammar, to answere any necessary question therein.
    • 1669, John Milton, Accedence Commenc’t Grammar (title of a Latin grammar)[2]
    • 1871, Review of An Elementary Greek Grammar by William W. Goodwin, North American Review, Volume 112, No. 231, 1 April, 1871, p. 427,[3]
      Our best schools send every year to college boys who know their accidence reasonably, and in some cases admirably well []
    • 1959, Anthony Burgess, Beds in the East (The Malayan Trilogy), published 1972, page 607:
      "Room. Rooms. It same thing." Jalii was above accidence.
  2. The rudiments of any subject.
    • 1904, Edwin Sidney Hartland, Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance and Folklore, London: David Nutt, p. 67,[4]
      When Franklin, playing with his kite in a thunderstorm, brought down sparks from the heavens, he was learning the accidence of that science of Electricity which has given us the Telegraph and Telephone []
  3. A book containing the first principles of grammar; by extension, a book containing the rudiments of any subject or art.
    • 1562, Gerard Legh, The Accedence of Armorie, 1597 edition, Preface,[5]
      And forsomuch as this treateth of blazon of Armes, and of the worthie bearers of them [] I therefore, have named this, the Accedence of Armorie []
    • c. 1600, William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act IV, Scene 1,[6]
      Sir Hugh, my husband says my son profits nothing in the world at his book. I pray you, ask him some questions in his accidence.
    • 1759, The Annual Register, p. 295,[7]
      Two years afterwards he got part of an accidence and grammar, and about three fourths of Littleton’s dictionary. He conceived a violent passion for reading []
    • 1895, Maud Wilder Goodwin, The Colonial Cavalier; or, Southern Life Before the Revolution, Boston: Little Brown & Co., pp. 230-231,[8]
      Hugh Jones, a Fellow of William and Mary College, writes of his countrymen that, for the most part, they are only desirous of learning what is absolutely necessary, in the shortest way. To meet this peculiarity Mr. Jones states that he has designed a royal road to learning, consisting of a series of text-books embracing an Accidence to Christianity, an Accidence to the Mathematicks, and an Accidence to the English Tongue.

Related terms[edit]

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for accidence in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)