What Does By Chance Mean?

By Chance Meaning

Definition: Accidentally, without prior planning.

If something happens by chance, no one has planned for it to happen. It is an accident, a random occurrence, and it may or may not happen again.

Usually, people are glad for it to have happened; it implies a happy coincidence rather than a bad piece of luck, and people tend to ascribe it to fate or destiny, particularly if it ended up having larger ramifications.

For example, someone might have met his wife by chance at a party he wasn’t going to go to, but he ended up marrying the person. In an example such as this, it is common to say that fate must have had a hand in the meeting.

Origin of By Chance

Define by chance The original meaning of chance is mere occurrence, and it comes from around the year 1300. It is unclear when it was joined with the preposition by to take on its current meaning, but we do know that people were using it as far back as Shakespeare’s time.

 In one of his last plays, The Winter’s Tale from 1611, Shakespeare wrote,

  • Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.

Another quite famous use of the phrase was by William Cowper in 1782, who said,

  • A fool must now and then be right, by chance.

Examples of By Chance

By chance definition In the modern day, people use by chance to talk about anything that has happened accidentally.

For example, someone might say

  • We met on the street by chance but had a nice lunch together.


  • I only went to Poland by chance, but it was one of my favorite trips.

When describing the behavior of something, one might say,

  • While world events can influence stocks, they also at times fluctuate by mere chance.

More Examples

  • The mathematician John Allen Paulos talks about some stocks, mutual funds, or analysts doing well over a period of time, merely by chance. –Huffington Post India
  • The actor believes that nobody becomes an actor by chance, a lot of hard work is required to prove yourself in the industry. –Times of India


If something happens by chance, it happens without prior planning. It is random and spontaneous, and it often, but not always, implies luck.