Serendipity means a “fortuitous happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”.
The first noted use in the English language was by Horace Walpole (1717â€“1797). In a letter to Horace Mann (dated 28 January 1754) he said he formed it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”. The name stems from Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon), from Sanskrit Simhaladvipa and Persian SarandÄ«p.
In its modern vernacular, serendipity is commonly associated with luck, neglecting the need for an individual to be “sagacious” enough to link together apparently innocuous facts in order to come to a valuable conclusion.
The story about the three princes was also used by Voltaire in his 1747 Zadig, and through this contributed to both the evolution of detective fiction and also to the self-understanding of scientific method.