Accidentally or Accidently: Which Is It?

Oops! I did it accidentally…or was it? Ways to spell accidentally abound. There is disagreement as to why it needs to spelled this way.

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    Adverbly Yours: Explaining ‘Accidentally’

    The word accidental means to do something by mistake. If you’re wondering what part of speech the word is, it’s an adjective. You would use this word if you got into an accidental situation.

    But if you wanted to describe the situation more fully, you would say got into the situation accidentally. ‘Accidentally’ is an adverb. Adverbs are used to describe adjectives more fully.

    Why Is Knowing This Important to Spell Accidentally Right?

    It’s important to know this because of how the adverb form of words is formed. To form an adverb, you add “ly” to a word. If the adjective you want to describe more fully is accidental, ly added to that is accidentally.

    If you follow this reasoning, ‘accidentaly’ becomes a misspelling of the word accidentally and not a word in its own right.

    A History of the Words Accidentally/Accidentaly

    But some people argue that “accidently” is a word, with its own usage history.

    One popular dictionary, the Merriam-Webster shows that “accidentally” has been in use since the 14th century.

    Meanwhile, “accidently” has been in use since the 15th century. Before the printing press standardized the language’s spelling, word variations abounded.

    “Accidently” has been appearing in written form since the 18th century. There are writers who use it, but it is not considered the standard form of the word.

    While this word makes appearances in writing, it is far less common than the word “accidentally.” 

    That said, an informal poll of many grammar sites on the Internet reveal that “Accidently” is considered a misspelling. This misspelling is based on the mispronunciation of the word.

    But “Accidently” Appears in Some Dictionaries

    You’ve always been told by your teachers to check the dictionary if in doubt about a word. However, we tend to forget that dictionaries tend to include words that become commonly used.

    According to some grammarians, this doesn’t mean that the particular word is correct. If you can’t trust a dictionary, who can you trust?

    In such cases, you’re advised to consult many sources and not just a single dictionary or grammar text.

    To Wrap Up

    If we’re to go by the majority of opinions, we’ll advise you that “Accidentally” is correct, while “Accidently” is wrong.

    This is because accidentally is the correct formation of the adverb. It has also been in use longer by at least a century.

    Accidentally or Accidently: Which Is It?

    Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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