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From casual, from Middle French casuel, from Medieval Latin casualitas and Late Latin cāsuālis (happening by chance), from Latin cāsus (event) (English case), from cadere (to fall)[1]. Originally meaning “a chance event” (compare casual, as in “casual encounter”), it developed a negative meaning as “an unfortunate event”, especially the loss of a person.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkaʒjʊəlti/
  • (file)


casualty (countable and uncountable, plural casualties)

  1. Something that happens by chance, especially an unfortunate event; an accident, a disaster.
    • 1756, Samuel Johnson, “The Life of Sir Thomas Browne” in Thomas Browne, Christian Morals, 2nd edition, London: J. Payne, p. xx,[1]
      The course of his education was like that of others, such as put him little in the way of extraordinary casualties.
  2. A person suffering from injuries or who has been killed due to an accident or through an act of violence.
  3. (proscribed) Specifically, a person who has been killed (not only injured) due to an accident or through an act of violence; a fatality.
  4. (military) A person in military service who becomes unavailable for duty, for any reason (notably death, injury, illness, capture, or desertion).
  5. (Britain) The accident and emergency department of a hospital providing immediate treatment; a casualty department or emergency room.
  6. An incidental charge or payment.
  7. Someone or something adversely affected by a decision, event or situation.
    • 1962 December, “Beyond the Channel: Switzerland: Federal aid for three minor lines”, in Modern Railways, page 418:
      Among recent casualties is the S.B.B.'s branch from Nyon to Divonne-les-Bains, just across the French frontier, closed to all traffic at the commencement of the winter service.
  8. (obsolete) Chance nature; randomness.
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970:
      , NYRB 2001, vol.1, p.327-8:
      The non-necessary [causes] follow; of which, saith Fuchsius, no art can be made, by reason of their uncertainty, casualty, and multitude []

Usage notes[edit]

The term casualty is sometimes used to mean “a killed person”; in more careful use this is referred to as a fatality, and casualty instead means “killed or injured”.



Derived terms[edit]

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  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “casualty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.