A Short History of the Word ‘Serendipity’

Interesting Literature

The curious origins behind one of Britain’s favourite words – and its link to Gothic fiction

The word ‘serendipity’ was invented on 28 January 1754. It was one of two literary creations by its inventor, Horace Walpole, that would achieve widespread popularity. Indeed, both inventions are still with us: when Walpole (son of Britain’s first de facto Prime Minister, Robert Walpole) put down the word ‘serendipity’ for the first time, he was giving the English language one of its most beloved, but bewilderingly difficult, words. His other invention, created ten years after the coining of ‘serendipity’, would spawn a whole now genre of fiction.

As we highlighted in a previous post on the first Gothic novel, Walpole was a prolific inventor, or at least populariser, of new words. He is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing over 200 words into the English language, among them beefy, malaria, nuance…

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