Germany's new foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, during a press conference said:

"It's not by coincidence that I came here to Brussels on my first day in office,"

In German it would be: 'Es ist kein Zufall'. 'Zufall' can mean both 'fortuitous event, accident' or 'coincidence'.

But for calling it a 'coincidence' in English wouldn't it require that two events, equally important, happen at the same time? E.g. two cars in a a little-traveled route crash in a cross-road. There were there at the same time by coincidence. Another case would be, for example, if I stay up at night and I accidentally tripped over my dog.

Is she being to rigid in considering Unfall = accident / Zufall = coincidence? 'Unfall' in German is a bad thing like a crash, and not something that 'accidentally happened'.

Is 'coincidence' here wrong?

  • 1
    If the two cars crash into each other it's one event, not two! Dec 19, 2021 at 13:35
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    @KateBunting: both being there at the same time is the coincidence. The crash, a single event, is the product of it. Dec 19, 2021 at 16:30
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    This is such a good point. After reading this, my first reaction was that Baerbock used the word perfectly correctly (although "not a coincidence" or "no coincidence" is better/more idiomatic than "not by coincidence" imho - so she overthought the translation). But now that you point it out, why would it be a coincidence that she was in Brussels? Does anyone think for even a second that the foreign minister is acting without a plan? Thank you for uncovering this cheap rhetorical trick.
    – cruthers
    Dec 19, 2021 at 18:07
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    I see the point you are making, and strictly speaking you are right. However people do use it that way (perhaps incorrectly) in English. Many an incorrect form gets adopted - as I suppose is the case in German, and other languages too. One of them is, for example "diagnose". People say "She was diagnosed with appensicitis". It wasn't her who was diagnosed, it was the appendicitis. But the incorrect form has now become routinely established - similarly with coincidence.
    – WS2
    Dec 19, 2021 at 18:12
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    Event 1: her presence in Brussels; event 2: her first day in office. It would be a coincidence if her first day of office otherwise determined falls on a day for an event that must be attend by the minister in Brussels. In any case, she said it was not a coincidence, so strictly speaking it is correct anyhow.
    – xngtng
    Dec 19, 2021 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


This use of coincidence here is fine in English. You don't need multiple events to have coincidence despite the etymology of the word. The usage here is as a synonym of accident. This us the first meaning under Google's definition.

a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.
Similar: accident, fate, etc.

In this case we are talking about the minister's schedule of trips. Something she would have arranged herself. She's just making clear she hasn't arranged the schedule randomly.

Additionally,it also implies there isn't another unrelated reason that she is there, a friend's wedding perhaps.

  • 1
    I think you mean etymology (where the word came from) not entomology (the study of bugs)!
    – stangdon
    Dec 19, 2021 at 16:07
  • @stangdon thank you!
    – Jontia
    Dec 19, 2021 at 17:18

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