Definition of fortune in US English:



  • 1Chance or luck as an external, arbitrary force affecting human affairs.

    ‘some malicious act of fortune keeps them separate’
    • ‘But the pair suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with smiles and embraced each other warmly at the end of an epic contest.’
    • ‘We are trying that all the time and on Sunday fortune smiled little bit on us.’
    • ‘Aries, the cosmic lamb/ram, thus was seen to control time and space and human fortune.’
    • ‘I knew I wouldn't get a chance to slip in before class but fortune smiled on me in the form of an open window.’
    • ‘I should have known that such good luck was not my fortune though.’
    • ‘Some are not so lucky, but I believe that fortune has smiled on him.’
    • ‘The idea of restoring the aircraft in the desert became more remote but good fortune smiled upon the museum.’
    • ‘And just as the serpent had promised, good fortune smiled upon the woodcutter and his wife.’
    • ‘Even his eventual transfer was an accident of fortune.’
    • ‘As a result she had been kicked around by fortune as it pleased, painfully aware of its brute force.’
    • ‘At its core, Le Cercle Rouge is all about fortune, about how it cannot be forced nor can it be avoided.’
    • ‘There are few things I dislike more than feeling that my fate and fortune is in the hands of professional back-protectors.’
    • ‘Notwithstanding those difficulties the biggest problem facing any publisher is chance and fickle fortune.’
    • ‘Good fortune smiled however, when they added organic dairy products to their mix.’
    • ‘The veterinarian says fortune has smiled on his life.’
    • ‘Peter's exercised the discipline and fitness that we have come to expect from them, but were also forced to rely on fortune.’
    • ‘However, fortune smiled upon them, as they had arrived in Nathaal a few hours earlier than expected.’
    • ‘He weighed up the opportunities which fortune provided.’
    chance, accident, coincidence, serendipity, twist of fate, destiny, fortuity, providence, freak, hazard
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    1. 1.1 Luck, especially good luck.
      ‘this astounding piece of good fortune that has befallen me’
      • ‘Every misfortune, like any piece of good fortune, involves two questions: The first is how it happened, and the second is why.’
      • ‘I have had the good fortune to see the piece several times a day for several weeks, as it was placed outside my office before the sale.’
      • ‘Maguire missed four of the last Cheltenham Festivals due to ill fortune.’
      • ‘All these problems were set against a backdrop of war and accentuated by ill fortune.’
      • ‘This is an astounding piece of good fortune for our sport, as we know that all publicity is good publicity.’
      • ‘This is supposed to prevent good fortune from being swept out of the family.’
      • ‘His eyes lingered on some points more than the rest and he smiled at his fortune.’
      • ‘The men in the famous zebra stripes could scarcely believe their ill fortune when they were denied two penalties in the first ten minutes.’
      • ‘Perhaps the biggest factors in maintaining the team's good fortune are work ethic and determination.’
      • ‘Sure enough, both fortune and luck being with me, I won the piece for the starting price.’
      • ‘Astronomers tend to resist explanations that depend on human good fortune.’
      • ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures and he, too, has found a way to overcome his recent ill fortune.’
      • ‘They have not reached this predicament simply through ill fortune.’
      • ‘The rest of the party was stunned at their good fortune, slowly moving back into a group - all save one.’
      • ‘Some Vietnamese believe that spirits have the ability to bring good fortune and misfortune to human life.’
      • ‘All failure, however undeserved, however excused or dogged by ill fortune, is treated the same.’
      • ‘It is clear that only good fortune prevented loss of life on the night of the fire.’
      • ‘Sponsorship in a recession is not easy to come by, but he appears to be managing and this piece of good fortune will undoubtedly help.’
      • ‘They usually employed various psychological techniques to cope with and often even thrive upon any ill fortune that came their way.’
      • ‘That piece of good fortune heralded something of a turnaround, as the Scots put together their best period to date.’
      luck, fate, destiny, predestination, the stars, fortuity, serendipity, karma, kismet, lot, what is written in the stars
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    2. 1.2fortunes The success or failure of a person or enterprise over a period of time or in the course of a particular activity.
      ‘he is credited with turning around the company's fortunes’
      • ‘She helped to change the image and fortunes of the estate by improving facilities, particularly for the young.’
      • ‘The party's electoral fortunes also revived in the state elections and by-elections.’
      • ‘Residents have also been urged to gather information on troublemakers in a bid to turn the estate's fortunes around.’
      • ‘His reaction amounts to an acknowledgement that the fortunes of the national side inform everything.’
      • ‘Despite the turn in his public fortunes, privately it's been a difficult year.’
      • ‘But it was a trip to Ireland that really transformed the company's fortunes.’
      • ‘Both men have seen their fortunes rise and fall with the opinion poll results.’
      • ‘The club's fortunes have risen and declined again.’
      • ‘Workers at a famous Bolton factory have helped turn around their company's fortunes.’
      • ‘He hoped that a successful outcome in the Special Election would reverse his sagging political fortunes.’
      • ‘She wants to turn the team's fortunes around quickly, whatever it takes.’
      circumstances, state of affairs, condition, financial position, material position, financial situation, material situation, financial status, material status
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  • 2A large amount of money or assets.

    ‘he eventually inherited a substantial fortune’
    • ‘Bill Cosby may have gained his fame and fortune telling jokes and funny stories.’
    • ‘He eventually grows a conscience, to the point of sacrificing his fortune for every last human life he can save.’
    • ‘The five won their chance of fame and fortune after a series of open auditions as viewers watched their highs and lows.’
    • ‘The young would be lured in with promises of amassing great fortunes in private accounts.’
    • ‘This metal, dug from the earth of California, provided my fortune.’
    • ‘On paper, this bodes well for trust fund children set to inherit the family fortunes.’
    • ‘A young man who inherited a large fortune spent all of his time jetting around the world playing new and exotic golf courses.’
    • ‘Before the war he had been left a substantial fortune by his father.’
    • ‘The president himself made a small fortune selling his failed oil company to business friends of his father.’
    • ‘It would also give him a chance to spend that fortune.’
    • ‘Despite humble origins, her father amassed a small fortune buying, cultivating and reselling land.’
    • ‘Great scientific achievements are in prospect, and vast fortunes are to be made.’
    • ‘Quite how much of a personal fortune he had inherited is uncertain.’
    • ‘But it still amounts to a substantial fortune for him not to have a share of.’
    • ‘It was in the interests of those who have made vast and largely illicit fortunes at the expense of society that this war was fought.’
    • ‘Not only does he smoke heavily, but he has made a substantial fortune out of selling and marketing tobacco, to the detriment of the health of many people.’
    • ‘In fact, only a handful of the wealthy allow their entire fortunes to be taxed.’
    • ‘Since 1987 Forbes has scoured the globe tracking the fortunes of the world's wealthiest people and uncovering new faces.’
    • ‘The wealth brought by his marriage and his canny eye for business between them enabled him to amass a substantial fortune.’
    • ‘A pensioner who wins the lottery or inherits an unexpected fortune could continue to claim the government's new flagship benefit.’
    wealth, riches, substance, property, assets, resources, means, deep pockets, possessions, treasure, estate
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    1. 2.1a fortuneinformal A surprisingly high price or amount of money.
      ‘I spent a fortune on drink and drugs’
      • ‘We then spent a fortune buying all sorts of goodies from some of the shops in Glastonbury High Street.’
      • ‘While you can spend a fortune on buying and decorating your ideal dolls' home, you don't have to.’
      • ‘It may cost a fortune but it was definitely worth it.’
      • ‘The whole system looked like a proper dog's dinner and it cost a fortune to set up.’
      • ‘Items such as modern hi-tech lamps can cost a fortune to buy but you haven't begun to count the real cost until you work out what you pay to travel with them.’
      • ‘All I know is that it costs us a fortune in cat food.’
      • ‘The second Megan stepped inside, she knew that it must have cost Chris a fortune to get the reservations.’
      • ‘Like I didn't spend a fortune having the Times sent to me every day.’
      • ‘But, thankfully, we've now got room to lock away the teak garden furniture that we spent a fortune buying at the start of the summer.’
      • ‘The huge raids cost a fortune, embarrassed the police and the tide of street dealers flowed back in.’
      • ‘Let that be a lesson to you all thinking of engaging in cultural exchanges: send something that doesn't cost a fortune to post.’
      • ‘Well the rumourmongers claim a jealous belief that the playhouse costs a fortune to run and cannot be making any money.’
      • ‘It does not cost a fortune to make and is even better value for money if you buy a large sack of potatoes.’
      • ‘Even though these items cost a fortune, they're bought because their owners don't want to be looked down on.’
      • ‘Officials also knew that upgrading the building to meet seismic standards would cost a fortune.’
      • ‘Like all Kias, the Sorento will not cost you a fortune to buy or to run.’
      • ‘For example, it cost a small fortune just for the extension cords.’
      • ‘I wouldn't have accepted if mum hadn't forked out a fortune to buy me this dress.’
      • ‘This call is costing me a fortune, so don't waste my time and money denying this.’
      • ‘It will not cost a fortune to buy, insurance is not needed, maintenance is minimal and a driving licence is not essential.’
      a huge amount, a small fortune, a king's ransom, a vast sum, a large sum of money, a lot, millions, billions
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  • fortune favors the brave

    • proverb A successful person is often one who is willing to take risks.

      • ‘But if fortune favours the brave, the racecourse and its manager deserve good luck, better weather and a successful festival.’
      • ‘But fortune favours the brave and Wanderers have been rewarded for their bold buying policy.’
      • ‘One of the smartest pieces of advice offered by the author of The Prince was that fortune favours the brave.’
      • ‘They would not compromise their belief that fortune favours the brave.’
      • ‘It is said that fortune favours the brave and that was certainly the case as the swimmers took to the icy waters despite the unfavourable elements, giving a teeth-chattering rendition of Jingle Bells as they did so.’
  • the fortunes of war

    • The unpredictable, haphazard events of war.

      • ‘The missions will grow and change to reflect the fortunes of war, and your faction's standing in the war.’
      • ‘Don't journalists accept this as the fortunes of war?’
      • ‘This was an anomalous position in American law, and one that the fortunes of war and necessities of politics made frustrating.’
      • ‘Everything depended on risking the fortunes of war.’
      • ‘It is the fortunes of war and I could just have easily have come out the other way.’
  • make a (or one's) fortune

    • Acquire great wealth by one's own efforts.

      • ‘In one of the most extraordinary ironies of history, Gutenburg's efforts to make his fortune by popularising the Bible were to play a decisive role in the undermining of the influence of the organised church.’
      • ‘There were few who entered the dancehall business in the early 1900s with the intention of making their fortune from it.’
      • ‘She answers an enigmatic classified ad and travels to New York City not to make her fortune, for fortunes are rare in the sixth year of the Great Depression, but to survive.’
      • ‘London is a honeypot for young Scots with dreams of making their fortune, but many end up living on the streets, too ashamed or demoralised to return, according to researchers.’
      • ‘He inherited his wealth from his father, who made his fortune in manufacturing and selling cigars.’
      • ‘Corzine made his fortune by acquiring and maintaining the vast majority of his net worth in Goldman Sachs.’
      • ‘It's almost certain that the real estate ‘expert’ encouraging you to make your fortune in real estate is making his fortune from you.’
      • ‘It proved to be tin but their dreams of making their fortune on mining tin proved illusory.’
      • ‘Today's episode has a brisk rehearsal of his business career: failing quite lucratively as an oilman, and then making his fortune out of public funds as part-owner of a football team.’
      • ‘Originally, the employees tended to be young, single men bent on making their fortune quickly and then leaving.’
      make a large profit, make a fortune, make one's fortune, gain, profit, make money, be successful, be lucky
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  • a small fortune

    • informal A large amount of money.

      • ‘The fishing rights must now be worth a small fortune.’
      • ‘The sum is worth a small fortune in India, where it could feed and clothe a family for life.’
      • ‘Father had been fond of giving gifts, and Margaret knew it to be worth a small fortune, should she need it.’
      • ‘Only she turned out to be working for this money lender, who reckons I owe him a small fortune in interest now.’
      • ‘Over the months the pile of money in my account builds up and soon I have a small fortune.’
      • ‘Should it happen that said uncle's middle initial was B, the information could be worth a small fortune.’
      • ‘The chances are that it was in a gallery, produced by an art school graduate, and that it was worth a small fortune in the lucrative art market.’
      • ‘When you mix men with guns and minerals worth a small fortune, inevitably smuggling, violence and general disorder result.’
      • ‘And if that volume is still around it will be worth a small fortune.’
      • ‘The evening must have cost a small fortune, judging by the amounts of food and entertainment and the notable size of the government entourage.’
      a huge amount, a small fortune, a king's ransom, a vast sum, a large sum of money, a lot, millions, billions
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  • tell someone's fortune

    • Make predictions about a person's future by palmistry, using a crystal ball, reading tarot cards, or similar divining methods.

      • ‘I know fortune cookies rarely tell your fortune, but when did they start telling you off?’
      • ‘My friend Jennifer decided one day that she would tell my fortune using an ordinary pack of playing cards.’
      • ‘I was in the middle of telling someone's fortune when I heard a commotion.’
      • ‘In Asia, there are people who can tell your fortune by just looking at your palm or face.’
      • ‘You may want to save these though, since many believe that you can use them to tell your fortune.’
      • ‘And after that was attended to, she drew up a chair to the rickety table, and told her fortune with an old deck of cards.’
      • ‘She took her daughter out to see them and they admired the little girl as they told her fortune.’
      • ‘The last time someone told my fortune they didn't say a word about living in another country so I discounted most of the things that they said.’
      • ‘After a session with the local witchdoctor who told our fortune, we sampled the wonderful hot springs nearby.’
      • ‘Then an older man, wearing a lab coat but still strongly reminiscent of both the tarot reader and the zodiac expert, ran his fingertips over the slides, as though they were Braille, and told her fortune.’


Middle English: via Old French from Latin Fortuna, the name of a goddess personifying luck or chance.