accident / incident

bambina-in-nero

Senior Member
Italian
Hello,

I know that this topic has already been cover here, but non entirely, I feel, because all that I've found out relates to a difference in degree:
Incident: a sligher degree
Accident: a greater degree

I would like to ask wheter it is possible to claim that "incident" has a figurative meaning
eg a diplomatic incident

Whereas "accident" as more a realistic meaning:
eg a car accident

Does it make sense? Thanks :)
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There are previous threads discussing what an incident is (e.g. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2120154).

    Your diplomatic incident is just something which happened in the area of diplomacy. I wouldn't call it figurative, since the event (i.e. what happened) is as real as an accident.
    Incident does not go as far as accident, although it usually has a negative meaning. For example, if there is a gas leak which does not cause an injury, this would be called an incident.
     

    bambina-in-nero

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thanks, yes I had already consulted the thread you kindly suggest to me... I was wondering wheter there was also this difference: figurative meaning vs physical meaning:
    eg in a car accident two cars actually crash, there is a physical impact, a physical involvement; in "a diplomatic incident", however, it is more referred to the abstract concept , though it is real, than to a physical fight...
    Another example, I found this expression:
    "yesterday i had a slight home accident": it makes me think that the person maybe fell from a chair or something like that: something where there is a physical involvment
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    To me an incident is as real as an accident. In both cases there is an event that is physical, even if it only consists of speaking, i.e. words.
    Perhaps you could give an example of what you consider to be an event with a figurative meaning?
     

    bambina-in-nero

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I mean, both accident and incident refer to real events. In "incident" it is possible that there has been physical injury/involvement too, but it is just part of the situation, whereas if I say "accident" I am likely to refer specifically to a physical impact/injury, like a car crash, like falling from a chair, like two people fighting and beating each other...

    I found this definition of accident: "An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm
    So if i say accident I immediately think of "damage or harm", which is not so given for granted if I say incident.I may have got it wrong, i don't know
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I agree that accident is likely to result in damage or injury. But if you put orange juice on your cornflakes by accident, the harm is slight!

    An incident is, by definition, not an accident (at least in the context of health and safety at work). But, for example, if the police are called out to an incident, an injury may be involved. The theft of a handbag may not cause an injury, but domestic violence may.
     

    bambina-in-nero

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I'm not talking of the expression by accident, I know it means by chance, and it has different meaning from the noun accident.

    Can we sum up saying that in the word incident an injury may be involved but it is not certain; whereas in the the word accident injury or harm are very likely to be involved? What do you think?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    By accident = accidentally, and applies to a situation, for example, where a car driver, through lack of sleep, dozes off at the wheel and runs into the back of another vehicle.

    However, I accept your summing up (with the addition of damage, since injury is to mean only personal injury). Note, however, that the words accident and incident are used with precise meanings when talking about safety at work. When I first came across incident in this context, I didn't know how it differed from accident until I read the definitions.
     
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