“When Fleming returned to his lab, he made a serendipitous discovery.”

What is the best definition of serendipitous?

Check your answer!

Choice A - Bringing fame or fortune to a person or group
Choice B - Resulting from premeditated planning and testing
Choice C - Groundbreaking or innovative in nature
Choice D - Characterized by unanticipated good luck


Serendipitous (adjective) – characterized by unexpected luck or good fortune

Serendipity (noun) – the phenomenon of having lucky and fortunate encounters or making lucky and fortunate discoveries; or, an instance of such good luck or fortune

GRE pro tips:

Serendipitous is the adjective form of serendipity: an instance or knack for having lucky or fortunate encounters or discoveries – or, in other words, being lucky by being in the right place at the right time. A serendipitous event is unplanned and happens by accident, so it’s typically when you least expect it. And the outcome of something serendipitous is both unforeseen and fortunate

Many scientific discoveries, for instance, occur quite serendipitously! Take the example of biologist Alexander Fleming’s serendipitous discovery of penicillin: When growing bacterial cultures, Fleming hurriedly left for a trip and accidentally left one Petri dish open. When he returned, a mold had formed and had killed off all surrounding bacteria in the culture. This was a serendipity that led him to identify and isolate the powerful antibiotic (from the mold).

Example sentences:

“The move to online shopping has eliminated much of the opportunity for serendipitous discoveries that shoppers (and store owners) have long enjoyed.”

“But in an extraordinary bit of serendipity, Selena had received her pilot’s license just a week before, and managed to steer the plane to safety.”