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Accidental and Incidental

Commonly Confused Words


Accidental and Incidental

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae (1889)

The adjective accidental means unintentional or happening by chance.

The adjective incidental means secondary or nonessential. It often refers to something that occurs in connection with a more important activity or event.


  • According to the National Safety Council, there were 600 accidental shooting deaths in the United States in 2009.

  • In murder trials, the killer's motivation is thoroughly explored, whereas the type of weapon he used is often treated as an incidental detail.


(a) When you travel on business, _____ expenses are items such as local transportation, telephone calls, tips, and laundry.

(b) _____ fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than in any other room in the house.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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