Serendipity & zemblanity

ser·en·dip·i·ty (sÄ•r’É™n-dÄ­p’Ä­-tÄ“) n., pl. -ties.
serendipitous ser’en·dip’i·tous adj.
serendipitously ser’en·dip’i·tous·ly adv.

1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery.

Apparently, English author Horace Walpole coined the the word serendipity. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that “this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word.” Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of “a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of….”

William Boyd later coined the term zemblanity to mean somewhat the opposite of serendipity: “making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design”. It derives from Novaya Zemlya (or Nova Zembla), a cold, barren land with many features opposite to the lush Sri Lanka (Serendip).

May serendipity always prevail over zemblanity in your creative endeavours.


  1. I have always loved that word serendipity but it is the first I have heard of the word zemblanity. Thank you for the new word.

  2. And in my family we were certain that my sister’s cat loved the word – “SerenDIPity?” was her version of miouw.

  3. I’ve just thoroughly read all the posts I’ve only had time to glance at in the past two months. My goodness! You’ve been very productive. The Pohutukawa quilt is a knockout! V, interesting to see your remarks re:your move to WordPress. I just moved my blog over today. It took me ALL day!