Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for July 9, 2021 is:

aleatory • AY-lee-uh-tor-ee  • adjective

1 : depending on an uncertain event or contingency as to both profit and loss

2 : relating to luck and especially to bad luck

3 : characterized by chance or indeterminate elements : aleatoric


“Steir paints using a carefully choreographed aleatory process … informed by her interest in Zen meditation and Japanese and Chinese art-making traditions. Standing on a cherry picker to reach the top of her canvas…, Steir pours, flings or swabs a line of paint, then patiently waits for it to trickle down in rivulets.” — Julia Felsenthal, The New York Times, 21 July 2020

“We got very, very lucky. Because the University might as well have rolled a die and hoped for the best…. I’m not trying to undermine the administration’s tireless efforts to maintain safety, but I’m entirely willing to call the success of GoForward what it is: aleatory.” — Ketan Sengupta, The Chicago Maroon (The University of Chicago), 19 Jan. 2021

Did you know?

If you’re the gambling type, then chances are good you’ve come across aleatory in your travels. Deriving from the Latin noun alea, which refers to a kind of dice game, aleatory was first used in English in the late 17th century to describe things that are dependent on uncertain odds, much like a roll of the dice. The term now describes things that occur by sheer chance or accident, such as the unlucky bounce of a golf shot or the unusual shape of an ink blot. Going a bit further, the term “aleatory music” (also called “aleatoric music” or “chance music”) describes a musical composition in which certain parts are left for the performer to concoct through improvisation.