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Alternative forms[edit]


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/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈkæʒjʊəlti/
  • (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. (British) Clipping of casualty department: the accident and emergency department of a hospital providing immediate treatment.
    Synonyms: A&E, accident and emergency; (US) emergency department, 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.
    • 2012 March 4, Alice Rawsthorn, “Farewell, Pocket Calculator?”, in The New York Times[2]:
      Today, the pocket calculator is a dying product, a casualty of digitization, which has been relegated to the role of a graphic icon on phone and computer screens rather than an object in its own right, but back in the early 1970s, it was at the forefront of consumer technology.
  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:
      , 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 (2001–2024) “casualty”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.