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From Latin casuālitas (compare casuality). 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.



casualty (plural casualties)

  1. (obsolete) Chance nature; randomness.
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069; The Anatomy of Melancholy, 2nd corrected and augmented edition, Oxford: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, 1624, OCLC 54573970, (please specify |partition=1, 2, or 3):
      , 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 []
  2. 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.
  3. A person suffering from injuries or who has been killed due to an accident or through an act of violence.
  4. (proscribed) Specifically, a person who has been killed (not only injured) due to an accident or through an act of violence; a fatality.
  5. (military) A person in military service who becomes unavailable for duty, for any reason (notably death, injury, illness, capture, or desertion).
  6. (Britain) The accident and emergency department of a hospital.

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”.


(hospital's accident and emergency):


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]