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Especially if it's something unlikely. Almost as if it could only happen in a movie. For instance, you're about to be robbed and a random cop on patrol arrives at that exact time. What are the chances of that?

Is there an expression/idiom that communicates that general idea?

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    Not offering an expression, hence the comment rather than answer, but this sounds like a "coincidence" to me. – Scott Brown Jun 30 '15 at 14:38
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    In AmE we usually describe such a happening as blind luck. – Robusto Jun 30 '15 at 14:43
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    The cop arrived in the nick of time – Misti Jun 30 '15 at 17:46
  • @ScottBrown It would be a coincidence, but coincidences don't have to be fortuitous, they could just as easily be bad luck, or entirely neutral. – neminem Jun 30 '15 at 20:40
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    For describing an actual work of fiction, you could call it a deus ex machina or plot contrivance. You could apply these terms to real life ironically, if you desired. If you need a more specific term for a very exact type of contrivance, feel free to waste an afternoon (or day, or week) on TvTropes. – Patrick M Jun 30 '15 at 22:13

15 Answers 15

42

The first word that comes to mind is serendipity. Merriam-Webster says:

luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for

But as Robusto correctly points out, that word is mostly used for discoveries. A thesaurus points from there to fluke, defined by macmillan as:

something that happens unexpectedly because of an accident or good luck

An alternative option, as Brian Donovan points out, is the adjective fortuitous, as Merriam-Webster describes:

2 a : fortunate, lucky
b : coming or happening by a lucky chance

22

Godsend (noun):

  • an unexpected thing or event that is particularly welcome and timely, as if sent by God Dictionary.com

  • something good that happens unexpectedly, especially at a time when it is needed CDO

'The grant was a real godsend, especially considering the theatre was due to close next month.'

10

To further the idea of 'Something that could only happen in a movie, perhaps Deus Ex Machina:

Deus ex machina (Latin: [ˈdeʊs ɛks ˈmaː.kʰɪ.naː]: /ˈdeɪ.əs ɛks ˈmɑːkiːnə/ or /ˈdiːəs ɛks ˈmækɨnə/;1 plural: dei ex machina) ... The term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object.
Wikipedia

5

Stroke of Luck

A fortunate occurrence that could not have been predicted or expected

Jim: How'd you get a ticket to the game its been sold out for weeks?

Tom: A bicyclists happened to run into me this morning and took off. Afterwards I noticed the ticket on the ground, it must have fallen out of his pocket. What a stroke of luck right?

4

For yet another expression with heavenly implications and origins, there’s

like manna from heaven,

meaning: “something that you need which you get when you are not expecting to get it.” (from Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed., as cited in The Free Dictionary)

3

A common phrase for sudden good fortune, especially in the midst of poor fortune, is stroke of luck, e.g. "We were being robbed, but we had a stroke of luck: a police officer appeared." It's used in this sense as a noun meaning "an act or feat".

You might also consider using happy coincidence. The scenario you describe is a coincidence: the simultaneous occurrence of causally unrelated events which are relevant to each other. The fact that the coincidence results in a fortunate outcome (for the speaker, at least) makes it happy.

3

To build further on Julie's godsend, you could say

The cop arriving was divine intervention.

When a miracle happens. When the hand of God reaches down and saves someone from a life threatening or dangerous situation. (UD)

When someone is placed in the right place at the right time to be a catalyst for someone in need, when the person in need may have been in angst about how they would get through a certain situation.

Surprisingly, Urban Dictionary is the only citation I could dig up.


Along the same lines, you can say that it was Providence.

Providence is the guardianship and care provided by a deity or god. Religious people thank their god for his providence. (Vocabulary.com)

The word provide is a good clue to this word's meaning: when a religious being is said to give people providence, he's taking care of them — providing for them. For religious people, any good thing that happens to them — like landing a new job, getting healthy, or finding money on the ground — could be considered an example of providence. You can also talk about people providing providence, if they're showing care and prudence in managing resources.

  • there is also a very brief definition of 'divine intervention' under 'divine', at: CDO – Julie Carter Jun 30 '15 at 22:22
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    @JulieCarter: Thanks. Very brief indeed. I think godsend should be accepted. – Tushar Raj Jul 1 '15 at 5:40
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It is serendipitous.-- "occurring by chance in a happy or beneficial way."

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    Welcome to ELU, Cynthia. Serendipity was already offered in a high quality answer. Would you care to make another suggestion. – ScotM Jul 1 '15 at 0:03
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synchronicity: A term coined by mystical psychologist Carl Jung to describe coincidences that seem to have deeper meaning and significance.

the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. -Google

  • I understand this to mean a coincidence with personal meaning, such as happening across a photograph of a long-lost friend and then getting mail from them the next day. It wouldn't normally be used for plain good luck. – Paul Johnson Jul 1 '15 at 17:09
  • @PaulJohnson You're right. I generally think of "synchronicity" as meaning anything that a superstitious person would ascribe to prayer / psychic powers / magic / positive thinking / etc, but I believe it does technically have a more general meaning, for anything that can be made to look like a cause-effect relation but actually isn't. So, whether this term applies might depend on the beliefs of the person describing it. – Benubird Jul 2 '15 at 12:04
1

It's a godsend, though perhaps it's best to reserve this for when urgent needs are met.

AHDEL has:

godsend n.

Something wanted or needed that comes or happens unexpectedly.

How literal the term is people must decide for themselves.

1

An 11th hour reprieve is something that saves you from something bad at the last minute.

Suddenly everything came up sevens would when things suddenly start going your way.

0

With a supernatural/superstitious element perhaps one of these fits:

fate, fateful, twist of fate, written in the stars

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I believe I've heard felicitous used in this sense - "A felicitous occurrence".

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My firs thought was right place, right time.

in the location where something good is to happen exactly when it happens

Definition from thefreedictionary.com

I'm not sure that this works for your particular example, though it does work for the question title.

0

If you're looking for a more common word, go with "convenient" (adjective) and "conveniently" (adverb)

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/convenient

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/conveniently

"I was about to be robbed, but conveniently a cop turned a corner just in the nick of time." "That was convenient!"

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