late 14c., "an occurrence, incident, event; what comes by chance," from Old French accident (12c.), from Latin accidentem (nominative accidens) "an occurrence; chance; misfortune," noun use of present participle of accidere "happen, fall out, fall upon," from ad "to" (see ad-) + combining form of cadere "to fall," from PIE root *kad- "to fall."
The sense has had a tendency since Latin to extend from "something that happens, an event" to "mishap, undesirable event." Latin si quid cui accidat, "if anything should happen to one," was a euphemism for "to die." In Middle English the word is usually met in theology (in reference to the material qualities in the sacramental bread and wine), medicine ("something out of the ordinary, disease, injury"), or philosophy ("non-essential characteristic of a thing"). From late 15c. as "the operations of chance." Meaning "unplanned child" is attested by 1932. Accident-prone is from 1926.