Word Confusion: Accident versus Mishap

Posted May 15, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions

Seeing as mishap is a synonym for accident, you may wonder how this pair of words can be confused. Well, the concept may be an unexpected event, but it’s no accident — since there are no negative consequences with anyone suffering. Nor is there a mistake or problem of a mishap.

It’s just English at its “finest” with that minute distinction of meaning. For an accident involves negative consequences that were not intended for anyone to suffer while a mishap is merely an unlucky event.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Accident Mishap
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A spilled bucket of orange paint on the pavement

“Spilled Orange Color” is Dezidor’s own work under the CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Oops, it was an accident.

An NOAA fisheries research vessel NOAAS Delaware II (R 445) collapses against a dock

“NOAAS Delaware II Drydock Mishap” in this NOAA photo is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Whoaaa, that’s some banana peel!

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1, 2
Plural for noun: accidents
A synonym for accident

Plural for noun: mishaps
An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury 1

  • A crash involving road or other vehicles, typically one that causes serious damage or injury
  • [Informal] Used euphemistically to refer to an incidence of incontinence, typically by a child or an animal

An event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause

  • The working of fortune
  • Chance

[Philosophy (in Aristotelian thought)] A property of a thing that is not essential to its nature

A person born from an unplanned pregnancy 2

  • An unplanned pregnancy
An unlucky or evil accident

Bad luck



He was just an accident waiting to happen.

Don’t worry about it. Accidents will happen.

I’m sorry, Mama. It was by accident.

He had an accident at the factory.

If you are unable to work owing to accident or sickness, you’ll need to fill out this ream of paperwork.

He’s got an odd job; he’s an accident investigator.

Four people were killed in a car accident.

Mom… Rover had an accident.

What do you mean, my meeting him was no accident!?

The pregnancy was an accident.

It is no accident that my tale features a tragic romance.

My faith is an accident of birth, not a matter of principled commitment.

He came to Harvard largely through accident.

An accident is a property which has no necessary connection to the essence of the thing being described.

Yeah, our sister, Helena, was an accident.

Although there were a few minor mishaps, none of the pancakes stuck to the ceiling.

The event passed without mishap.

This sort of mishap can happen to anyone, not just people carrying concealed guns.

United tried to respond to the mishap requiring passengers to give up their seat.

Since the mishap with the banana peel, he watches his step.

He had come straight through his interview without mishap, and his tense mood relaxed.

She felt secure from worldly chances and mishaps.

The ceremony proceeded without mishap.

We experienced the usual mishaps of a family vacation.

Adjective: accidental
Adverb: accident-prone, accidentally
Noun: accidental
History of the Word:
1 Late Middle English, in the general sense of an event, is via Old French from the Latin accident- meaning happening, from the verb accidere, which is from ad- meaning toward, to + cadere meaning to fall.

2 1900

Middle English word dating back to 1300-50, from mis- + hap.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Trampled Underfoot” by Lode Van de Velde is in the public domain, via PublicDomain.net while “At Risk with a Banana Peel” is by Succo, via Pixabay.