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From Latin vicissitas. Mentioned since at least 1717, in Elisha Coles's An English Dictionary.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): [vɪˈsɪs.ɨˌti], [vaɪˈsɪs.ɨˌti][1]
  • Hyphenation: vi‧cis‧si‧tude


vicissity (plural vicissities)

  1. (chiefly in the plural, now very rare) A change, as of fortune.
    • 1763, Thomas Newcomb (translating Salomon Gessner's German work to English), The Death of Abel. A Sacred Poem. Written Originally [by Salomon Gessner] in the German language, attempted in the stile of Milton by the Rev. Thomas Newcomb, page 33:
      While to your ears, a father does unfold / The various scenes by turns which checquer'd o'er / My life, vicissities of bliss and woe. / When our offended Maker deem'd to cheer / Offending man, with promises of love, / And reconciling mercy, tell me, Eve, / Associate dear, in fortune's every change, / [...]
    • 1885, Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, page 164:
      It is well enough known that species of the lower forms of plant life, such as ferns and mosses amid the vicissities of change of situation, have spread over both hemispheres without such a departure from the central type as would constitute a distinct species; but is this true as regards higher forms, such as cycads and conifers?
    • 1928, Henry Louis Mencken, The American Mercury - Volume 15:
      Thomas Jefferson Gentry, an aspiring young lawyer, becomes a protege of Tammany, experiences all the vicissities of politics, and throws himself upon the mercies of Peggy McShane, a blue-eyed Irish lass, who heroically accepts him.
    • 2006, Jonathan Edwards & ‎Stephen J. Stein, The "blank Bible" - Volume 24, Part 1, page 585:
      Seeing things thus will have their course, their appointed changes and vicissities, no contrivance or labor of men can prevent it.

Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ Anglia, volumes 69-70 (1950), page 258, says this is pronounced with both /ɪ/ and subsidiarily /aɪ/, like vicissitude.