chance (n.)

c. 1300, "something that takes place, what happens, an occurrence" (good or bad, but more often bad), especially one that is unexpected, unforeseen, or beyond human control, also "one's luck, lot, or fortune," good or bad, in a positive sense "opportunity, favorable contingency;" also "contingent or unexpected event, something that may or may not come about or be realized," from Old French cheance "accident, chance, fortune, luck, situation, the falling of dice" (12c., Modern French chance), from Vulgar Latin *cadentia "that which falls out," a term used in dice, from neuter plural of Latin cadens, present participle of cadere "to fall," from PIE root *kad- "to fall."

In English frequently in plural, chances. The word's notions of "opportunity" and "randomness" are as old as the record of it in English and now all but crowd out its original notion of "mere occurrence." Meaning "fortuity, absence of any cause why an event should happen or turn out as it does, variability viewed as a real agent" is from c. 1400.

Chance is equivalent to the mathematical concept of probability, which is a precisely measurable factor enabling the accurate prediction of average outcomes over long runs of random events — the longer the run, the more accurate the predictions. Luck is at best a platitude and at worst a superstition. [David Partlett, "A History of Card Games"]

Main chance "probability that offers greatest advantage," hence "thing of most importance" is from 1570s. Mathematical sense "probability, likelihood of a certain outcome" is from 1778, hence the odds-making sense "balanced probability of gain or loss." To stand a chance (or not) is from 1796. To take (one's) chances "accept what happens" (early 14c.) is from the old, neutral sense; to take a chance/take chances is originally (by 1814) "participate in a raffle or lottery or game;" extended sense of "take a risk" is by 1826.

chance (v.)

late 14c., "to come about, to happen," from chance (n.). Meaning "to risk, take the chances of" is attested from 1859. Related: Chanced; chancing.

chance (adj.)

"resulting or due to chance; casual, unexpected," 1670s, from chance (n.).

updated on August 19, 2020

Definitions of chance from WordNet
chance (n.)
a possibility due to a favorable combination of circumstances;
now is your chance
Synonyms: opportunity
chance (n.)
an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another;
we ran into each other by pure chance
Synonyms: luck / fortune / hazard
chance (n.)
a risk involving danger;
you take a chance when you let her drive
chance (n.)
a measure of how likely it is that some event will occur; a number expressing the ratio of favorable cases to the whole number of cases possible;
if that phone call is for me, chances are it's my wife
Synonyms: probability
chance (n.)
the possibility of future success;
Synonyms: prospect
chance (v.)
be the case by chance;
I chanced to meet my old friend in the street
chance (v.)
take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome;
Synonyms: gamble / risk / hazard / take chances / adventure / run a risk / take a chance
chance (v.)
come upon, as if by accident; meet with;
She chanced upon an interesting book in the bookstore the other day
Synonyms: find / happen / bump / encounter
chance (adj.)
occurring or appearing or singled out by chance;
a chance occurrence
Synonyms: casual
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.