a. The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause.
b. A force assumed to cause events that cannot be foreseen or controlled; luck: Chance will determine the outcome.
2. often chances The likelihood of something happening; possibility or probability: Chances are good that you will win. Is there any chance of rain?
3. An accidental or unpredictable event: "He sprang to his feet and turned to run. At the same moment by a lucky chance the moon broke through the clouds" (Arthur Conan Doyle).
4. A favorable set of circumstances; an opportunity: a chance to escape.
5. A risk or hazard; a gamble: took a chance that the ice would hold me.
6. Games A raffle or lottery ticket.
7. Baseball An opportunity to make a putout or an assist that counts as an error if unsuccessful.
Caused by or ascribable to chance; unexpected, random, or casual: a chance encounter; a chance result.
tr.v. chanced, chanc·ing, chanc·esPhrasal Verb:
1. To take the risk or hazard of: We thought we could jump over the puddle, but we were not willing to chance it.
2. To have the fortune (to be or do something); happen: "My eye chanced to fall on the wizened houseplant on the windowsill" (Elisabeth Brink).
3. Used with the impersonal subject it and a following clause or infinitive to indicate the occurrence of a usually unexpected or chance event: "Now it chanced that this car-line was owned by gentlemen who were trying to make money" (Upton Sinclair).
chance on (or upon)Idioms:
To find or meet accidentally; happen upon: While in Paris we chanced on two old friends.
1. Without plan; accidentally: They met by chance on a plane.
2. Possibly; perchance: Is he, by chance, her brother?
on the off chance
In the slight hope or possibility.
[Middle English, unexpected event, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *cadentia, from Latin cadēns, cadent-, present participle of cadere, to fall, befall; see kad- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: chance, random, casual, haphazard, desultory
These adjectives apply to what is determined not by deliberation but by happenstance. Chance stresses lack of intention or premeditation: a chance meeting with a friend.
Random implies the absence of a specific pattern or objective: at the mercy of random events.
Casual stresses the indiscriminate or unpredictable nature of chance events: "the casual mutation of one of your liver cells from normal to cancerous" (John Barth).
Haphazard implies a carelessness or lack of control: "If unmarried significant others are invited to participate in the family support groups at all, it tends to be on a haphazard, informal basis" (Kristin Henderson).
Desultory denotes a sporadic or aimless sequence of events: "I lay on a shared cot listening to desultory gunfire" (Jan Clausen). See Also Synonyms at happen, opportunity.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.