Haps and Mishaps

A mishap is “an unlucky accident”, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, and is often accompanied by the word minor – e.g. we had a few minor mishaps in the kitchen, but at least we didn’t burn the chicken.

I happened upon the word mishap today and it got me wondering whether the word hap also exists. It does, though it rarely used these days, as far as I can tell.

Hap means:

– luck, fortune
– a chance occurrence, especially an event that is considered unlucky
– to come about by chance
– to have the fortune or luck to do something.

So it’s a contronym or auto-antonym in that it can mean good luck and the opposite, bad luck.

Here are some examples:

– If you have the good hap to come into their houses
– I entertained the Company with the many Haps and Disasters
– What can hap to him worthy to be deemed evil?
– Where’er I happ’d to roam

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Hap, mishap, and happen and happy, all come from the Old Norse word happ (chance, good luck), from the Proto-Germanic *hap-/*hampą (convenience, happiness), from the Proto-Indo-European *kob- (to suit, fit, succeed), which is also the root of the Old Irish cob (victory) and the Russian кобь [kob’] (fate).

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary and Wiktionary

2 thoughts on “Haps and Mishaps

  1. This brought to my mind the word haphazard, which also starts with the same word. I started wondering about the origin of hazard. It originally meant a game of dice, and comes from Old French hasard, from Spanish azar, from Arabic az-zahr ‘chance, luck’, from Persian zār or Turkish zar ‘dice’.

    Source: Oxford Dictionaries. The Online Etymology Dictionary has doubts about this though.

    It would be interesting to research words meaning ‘fate’ or ‘luck’ and their origins. The Finnish word for ‘fate’, kohtalo, originally meant the portion of meat that was given to each hunter after a successful hunt.

    The Finnish verb osata (can, know how to) has its origins in hunting as well. It used to mean to hit the target. The verb for this is in modern Finnish is osua.

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