Definition of incidental in English:



  • 1Accompanying but not a major part of something.

    ‘for the fieldworker who deals with real problems, paperwork is incidental’
    ‘incidental expenses’
    • ‘The team will pay for their own accommodation and it is hoped a sponsor will come forward to cover incidental expenses so all the money raised can go directly to Rosemere.’
    • ‘The scholarship will cover the full tuition and accommodation fees involved but will not cover travel to the Colaiste or other incidental expenses.’
    • ‘Yes, like I said we still don't have the money to cover even the incidental expenses, so I'm spending out of my pocket.’
    • ‘Criticism of the footnote is not a quibble about a minor incidental proposition.’
    • ‘The figures under the heading IEP relate to constituency office IT costs, stationery and incidental expenses.’
    • ‘Each attack's accompanied by great incidental animations, ranging from acrobatic swordfights to the crackle and flare of Force Lightning tearing into the enemy.’
    • ‘Such background details were not incidental, but necessary and defining parts of so deeply felt an experience.’
    • ‘The Matriarch of the family gives him some money for books and incidental expenses.’
    • ‘Book sales as such became an incidental, minor percentage of daily turnover in this and other bookshops.’
    • ‘We manage 90 seconds of incidental chitchat before conversation dries up.’
    • ‘For most the countryside is simply background, incidental.’
    • ‘We know something of Casaubon's background from incidental remarks.’
    • ‘Most cakes were eaten as incidental items to accompany a glass of sweet wine (the origin of the Madeira cake) or a dish of tea.’
    • ‘The latter has pages of editorial to play out fantasies and impart visual narratives, and the clothes are incidental; they just happen to be what the models were wearing at the time.’
    • ‘That space came along as a necessary but incidental accompaniment of the two arches.’
    • ‘The background is no incidental backcloth for the staging of the figure's magnificence.’
    • ‘As in his biography of Macarthur, the Aborigines are incidental, minor problems for his hero to overcome.’
    • ‘Usually it's the ‘living expenses’ and other incidental costs that throw budgets out of whack.’
    • ‘A hundred dollars left at the desk to cover any incidental expenses I might incur in a day didn't get me effective use of the phone in my room or access to the mini-bar.’
    • ‘But while reducing accrued liability makes the balance sheet look better, there's no effect on expenses beyond the incidental savings of closing the office.’
    less important, of less importance, secondary, subsidiary, subordinate, ancillary, auxiliary
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    1. 1.1Occurring by chance in connection with something else.
      ‘the incidental catch of dolphins in the pursuit of tuna’
      • ‘When the wasp attacks the larval butterfly, it drives the ants to attack each other, turning them into incidental casualties.’
      • ‘The aim is to reduce the incidental catch of gamefish like marlin while allowing stocks of swordfish, oceanic sharks and tuna to replenish themselves.’
      • ‘The small and incidental commercial catch is marketed as ‘perch’.’
      • ‘Precision comes from being able to strike the desired target while avoiding incidental casualties or unwanted damage.’
      • ‘They are not meat eaters, and any insects they swallow are accidental or incidental.’
      chance, by chance, accidental, by accident, random, casual, fortuitous, serendipitous, adventitious, coincidental, unlooked-for
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  • 2[predicative] Liable to happen as a consequence of (an activity)

    ‘the ordinary risks incidental to a fireman's job’
    • ‘Thus, for example, activities initially incidental to the main of an area of land may grow in scale to a point where they convert the single use to a composite use and produce a material change of use of the whole.’
    • ‘There was no fireman's rule in English law requiring firemen to accept the ordinary risks incidental to fighting a fire, having claims only in respect of unusual or extraordinary risks.’
    • ‘Achieving this designation in public policy requires identifying opportunities both as a specific agenda and as incidental to other APA activities.’
    • ‘For instance, a charity has to refrain from political advocacy, unless such lobbying activity is merely incidental to the charitable purpose.’
    connected with, related to, associated with, accompanying, attending, attendant on, concomitant to
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  • An incidental detail, expense, event, etc.

    ‘an allowance to cover meals, taxis, and other incidentals’
    • ‘In 2002, tuition fees before incidentals in this same program stand at $2,015, an increase of 145 per cent over 10 years.’
    • ‘These organisations are also entitled to what the government calls a top-up-grant which, in effect, is intended to cover rises in staff salaries and other incidentals.’
    • ‘Meals, recreational activities, and incidentals are out-of-pocket expenses.’
    • ‘Tuition, books, first and last month's rent and other incidentals can easily have us spending $4,000 before the term even begins.’
    • ‘The Defence Travel Card is a corporate credit card used to pay for business travel expenses including accommodation, meals, incidentals and surface travel.’
    extras, contingencies, odds and ends
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Early 17th century: originally from medieval Latin incidentalis, from Latin incident- falling upon, happening to (from the verb incidere).