I did some research and "accidentally" seems to be the proper spelling. However, some discussions mention that "accidently" is acceptable in informal writing and it is used quite frequently.
The reason "accidently" has become popular seems to be that many people pronounce the word that way.

So is "accidently" just wrong? Is it treated differently between GB/US English?

  • I would guess "accidently" has become popular because many people are poor (or apathetic) spellers. I'd recommend staunch avoidance, unless you want to appear ignorant. – J.R. Apr 16 '14 at 10:38

Accidently has an entry in the (full) OED, but it's labelled as non-standard:

Now nonstandard. In an accidental or chance manner; accidentally, by chance (contextually: by mischance). (In modern use only as an occasional spelling variant of accidentally adv.)

Interestingly, the first citation for accidently is (tentatively) dated 1425, only a few decades after the first appearance of accidentally (1398).

Merriam-Webster also includes accidently, which it accepts as a variant spelling:

accidentally or less commonly accidently adverb

  • Collins flags it as obsolete. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 16 '17 at 18:13
  • It may be that M-W are out of date, but I think it is just that American dictionaries are more permissive. "Accidently" and "glamourous" (with two us) are listed as legitimate variants by M-W, Random House, and AHD - but not by British dictionaries. (NGrams tells us that "glamourous" is extremely rare in both AmE and BrE, with no significant difference in frequency - so it's really not an AmE v BrE thing.) ... Correction: It seems Collins lists "glamourous" too. That surprises me a little. – rjpond Sep 16 '17 at 22:49

True, accidentally is the correct spelling. The latter one is also accepted but I don't think it's widely accepted in formal writing.

Dumbtionary (a dictionary of misspelled words) explains it:

The word listed above (accidentally) is probably the correct spelling for the word that you entered (accidently). This is just an educated guess based on commonly misspelled words. To double check that this is the correct word you can use the resources below to find the definition of accidentally, antonyms for accidentally, synonyms for accidentally, quotes relating to accidentally and other information about accidentally.

And the sources given there validates the former spelling as the correct one.

Furthermore, the word accidently returned no results on OxofordDictionaries.com. I also tried with option of 'British and World English' and the 'US English'. Zero result which means it's not a BrE or an AmE stuff.

  • "Accidentally" is two orders of magnitude more likely than "accidently" on the Internet: Google Ngram for **(accidently * 100),accidentally – CoolHandLouis Apr 16 '14 at 10:04
  • @CoolHandLouis surprisingly result changes if you change the setting. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Maulik V Apr 16 '14 at 10:14
  • 1
    With no smoothing, you're going to see jagged edges, except with your date range 2000-2008 (zoomed in) you see less jagged edges (none actually). Your ngram has the word "accidently" flatlining at the bottom. Look at my Ngram again and see "accidently" is multiplied by 100. I will multiply these bottom-hugging lines by 10,100,1000,etc until I get them to come up "into" the main chart area so I can see detail, but the data is really a factor of 100 less. If/when Google Ngram supports a log plot, I won't have to do this. – CoolHandLouis Apr 16 '14 at 10:31
  • Ngram for British English and US English. – Helix Quar Apr 16 '14 at 11:11
  • @CoolHandLouis: Interesting, I never used Ngram before. – Rev Apr 16 '14 at 11:37

Accident is the noun, accidental the adjective, add 'ly' to get the adverb accidentally

  • This is the most important point – Void Jan 10 at 7:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.