He fell off a cliff, but he only broke his leg.

Was he lucky or unlucky?
He was unlucky he fell off a cliff but he was also lucky that he only broke his leg. So he was both!

Is there a word for this? Like "bi-lucky"?

  • Reminds me of the story of the chap who fell out of a window at the top of the Empire State Building. As he passed the 200th floor, someone yelled 'You ok?'. 'So far so good' he replied! Clearly his luck was going to have to change if he was only going to end up with a broken leg!
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 15:53
  • It makes me think to expressions like "When a door closes, a window opens" or "turn lemons into lemonade" and also to "lucky losers".
    – Graffito
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 16:30
  • Perhaps lucky in [his] misfortune ? by analogy with "lucky in life/love".
    – Graffito
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 16:40
  • "You win some, you lose some." Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 17:46
  • 1
    I have some good news and some bad news. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 13:47

4 Answers 4


Fortune in misfortune is an expression you can hear or read to refer to such events.

From Modernisation and Tradition by Kerstin Sundberg

  • In that the fire ravaged them at the beginning of summer, they had had fortune in misfortune. Their animals were out to pasture and the warm season eased the reconstruction efforts. The results, that the inhabitants gained from their ...

From People in Auschwitz by Hermann Langbein:

  • He had good fortune in misfortune because at that time there was a change of commandants. Liebehenschel's bunker amnesty benefited Kusel as well, and at a later date he was transferred to Flossenbiirg together with other inmates who had ...

The phrase "a blessing and a curse" is sometimes used to describe something that is both a benefit and a burden. The expression may have arisen in the first place from Deuteronomy 26–28:

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse:

A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day.

and a curse if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which ye have not not known.

Here, the sense is that the blessing/curse will be purely a blessing if God's commandments are obeyed, but purely a curse otherwise. A more ambiguous and mixed sense of the phrase emerges from examples like this one, from The London Riddler; or, The Art of Teasing Made Easy (1835):

What is that which is a friend and an enemy, a blessing and a curse, which saves life and takes it away ; is long and short, round and square, rough and smooth, straight and crooked, hard and soft, hot and cold, and most wanted when it is in greatest plenty ; which accommodates itself to all palates ; is sweet and of bad smell, strong and weak ; sometimes able to bear great burdens, but at other times will not bear a pin.

Here the blessing/curse is both things though at different times. (The answer to the riddle is "water.")

And finally we see it in circumstances where the blessing/curse is both things simultaneously (albeit in different aspects), as in Olive Gibson, The Isle of a Hundred Harbors (1940) [combined snippets]:

On the whole the Contrabando was both a blessing and a curse; it was a blessing and a great benefit in that it brought the necessities of life to the people, but a curse in that it was training them in intrigue, because the contrabandistas often resorted to piracy along the sequestered coasts and on the open seas; they would sell their commodities to the people, then turn around and loot the cattle and hogs in the fields.

Transformed to the parlance of luck, "a blessing and a curse" means both extreme good luck and extreme bad luck.


Another potentially suitable phrase is "double-edged sword." John Ayto, Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms, third edition (2009), has this entry for the phrase:


A double-edged sword (or weapon) a course of action or situation having boh positive and negative effects.

[Example:] 2000: Investor A rising pound is a double-edged sword when investing overseas.

In terms of luck, you might say that something like winning a large prize from playing the lottery is a double-edged sword because it brings both money (yay) and the annoyances associated with sudden wealth and notoriety (boo).


All of the answers given so far give good, in-the-language expressions, but I don't think any of them describe the specific situation of a smaller fortunate occurrence happening concurrently with a larger misfortune, such as falling off a cliff and only breaking a leg. This sort of circumstance is called a silver lining, after the expression Every cloud has a silver lining.

If the opposite happens, such as a team winning a big game, but losing their star player to an injury, people may humorously say, Every silver lining has a cloud.

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