Accidently or Accidentally – Which is Correct?

When you are describing the way an action was performed, you use adverbs. Adverbs are words that modify verbs. Most of them end in -ly, and the adverb accidentally is no exception.

If you have ever heard this word spoken aloud, you might wonder whether it should be spelled accidentally or accidently. It’s tempting to spell the word as accidently, since many people shorten its pronunciation. Unfortunately, there is only one correct way to spell this word.

Continue reading to find out which way that is.

What is the Difference Between Accidently and Accidentally?

In this post, I will compare accidently vs. accidentally. I will outline which of these spellings is correct and showcase the correct spelling in example sentences.

Plus, I will show you an easy way to remember which of these two spellings is correct in written English.

When to Use Accidentally

Definition of accidentally definition of accidently definitionWhat does accidentally mean? Accidentally is an adverb. It describes something that was not on purpose. Remember, adverbs modify verbs, so this will be used around other verbs in a sentence.

For example,

  • “Mom, I accidentally knocked over the china cabinet and broke all your dishes,” admitted Freddy.
  • Don accidentally rear-ended a minivan at a stoplight because he was texting while driving.
  • Oops, you “accidentally” dropped your phone in the pool. Too bad you now have to buy an upgrade. –The New York Times

The adjective version of this word is accidental, and they are both derived from the word accident, which means an unfortunate event that was unintended. The word accident can be traced to Medieval English, when it was probably borrowed from Medieval French.

Like many words in modern English, accident has origins in Latin, specifically the word cadere, which means to fall. According to Merriam-Webster, accident was first recorded in English during the 14th century.

When to Use Accidently

Define accidentally and define accidentlyWhat does accidently mean? Accidently is a common misspelling of accidentally.

The confusion probably arises from the fact that some people mispronounce accidentally as if it were spelled accidently.

This chart shows the relative usage of accidently and accidentally since 1800,

accidently versus accidentally

As you can see, accidentally is much more common than accidently, approximately 56 times more common. In other words, you will want to be sure to use the correct spelling because your audience will probably notice it.

Pronunciation of Accidently and Accidentally

As mentioned above, the confusion between these two words might arise from the fact that accidentally is mispronounced as the shorter accidently.

Accidentally is pronounced ak-si-dent-a-ly. It is not pronounced ak-si-dent-ly.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Now that we have outlined each spelling, we can go over a trick to remember accidentally vs. accidently.

  • Accidentally is the correct spelling.
  • Accidently is a misspelling.

Remember that the related adjective is accidental. By keeping in mind the relationship between the adjective and adverb versions of the word accident, you should be able to remember that accidentally is the correct adverb form.

Summary

Is it accidently or accidentally? While both spellings have similar sounds, they are pronounced differently and only one is correct.

  • Accidentally is an adverb that means unintentionally.

Accidently is a common misspelling.