In some ways, writing the book was the easy part. The hard part is making sure not to forget to thank everyone who helped in its development!

We had been talking about writing a book together for years, but there was always some reason why we didn’t get around to it. Finally, the opportunity coalesced and we couldn’t find a reason to put it off any longer.

I don't know how you should understand the word coalesce in this context. Any thoughts?

  • 1
    Link to the source? Don't make me do your work. :)
    – user6951
    Feb 12, 2015 at 6:42
  • A link to the source might help, but I don't need one. There's plenty of material here to understand the question.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Feb 12, 2015 at 8:47

3 Answers 3


I understand it as figurative language.

Literally, “coalesce” means to come together to form a united whole, like droplets of water coalescing into a puddle [Wiktionary]. Or you could say that four independent-minded musicians, with conflicting ideas about how to perform their music, coalesced into a quartet—meaning that they learned to play cooperatively, forming a whole, performing as if they shared one spirit.

Metaphorically, in the context of the book preface, it means that the opportunity to write the book didn't exist until many things and people became ready at the right time, but eventually that did happen. The previous sentence mentions that there was “always some reason” why, in previous years, they didn’t write the book. That is, in previous years, some factors were always missing, which were needed to form an opportunity that the authors could act upon.

Unlike a literal coalescence, a bunch of independent factors needed for an opportunity don't grow together or unite. The passage just asks you to think of it that way. Or perhaps the coalescing was more literal, if perhaps one person's travels enabled them to make useful notes, which “attracted” an artist interested in converting the notes into drawings, which “attracted” a coauthor with the right qualiifications, and so on. In that case, there is more of a feeling that the elements of the opportunity are growing together rather than independently happening to become available at the same time.


This sounds like a book that's written by multiple authors.

I'll start by saying that, while I understand what they are trying to say, I, personally, as a speaker of AmE, don't think it's a particularly sensible statement.

Coalesce means:

come together and form one mass or whole.

So, it would literally mean:

opportunity came together

What the author here is trying to say is:

We finally had the opportunity to write the book because none of the issues preventing it were in the way any longer.

This is emphasized by mentioning the fact they'd been planning to write the book for years.

When they use the word coalesce, they're meaning to imply that, through some combination of effort and luck or chance, they were finally able to meet up to write the book.

This page on the ELU SE discusses a variety of more common phrases that mean the same thing, like "it all clicked into place" or "the stars aligned".

Here is an example of how the phrase is more correctly used:

Interest, need and opportunity coalesced into an idea...

(From Entrepreneurship As Social Change: A Third New Movements in Entrepreneurship)

This phrase is very different. It has three things, interest, need and opportunity and they are coming together, or coalescing, to create an idea.


The Latin verb to coalesce means to grow together. The formulation "the opportunity coalesced" doesn't sound very optimal, because one expects that two or several things coalesce, but not one single thing. The Latin verbal prefix con and its variants co-, coll, corr mean together.

  • Actually, the subject of "coalesce" can be the result of the coalescence: e.g. "From a few scattered tribes, a nation coalesced." (Most dictionaries don't document this sort of thing well.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Feb 15, 2015 at 16:08

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