I'm talking about a situation where I hear a word, phrase, or telling of an actual experience from one source (e.g., a friend's mouth), and almost immediately hear the exact same word or phrase from a different source such as the radio or TV.

For example, while driving and listening to the radio I might drive around a round-about and at the same time the word round-about comes on the radio in a song. But the word round-about is extremely rare in either fashion.

Is there a term for this experience?

  • 2
    This doesn't exactly match, but there is a term for when you learn about some obscure piece of information for the first time, then very shortly hear about it again. It's called the "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon".
    – Kevin
    Feb 5, 2016 at 17:47
  • @Kevin, so cool that there's a name for that! I often wonder when this happens to me if my mind is just playing tricks on me; i.e., I'm only noticing something now because of that recent incident...
    – Tim Ward
    Feb 5, 2016 at 18:07

6 Answers 6



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

(Oxford Dictionaries)


I think the term is coincidence:

  • an ​occasion when two or more ​similar things ​happen at the same ​time, ​especially in a way that is ​unlikely and ​surprising:

    • Is it just a coincidence that the ​wife of the man who ​ran the ​competition ​won first ​prize?

    • It was a coincidence that she was wearing a jersey like Laura’s

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • 1
    I think I would use "pure coincidence" to emphasise the rarity, though I'm not sure if others do this. Feb 5, 2016 at 16:06
  • @JamesWebster - Yes, 'pure coincidence' is used, 'just a coincidence' is also a common expression. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Feb 5, 2016 at 16:11
  • 1
    "Pure coincidence" and "just a coincidence" don't emphasize the rarity, they emphasize the fact that it is nothing more than coincidence; that the occurrences were random and had nothing to do with one another. Feb 5, 2016 at 19:24
  • Yes, it's coincidental that I learn about something and then notice that same thing shortly thereafter, but that doesn't describe the feeling that my learning about something is somehow connected to my subsequent noticing that thing. In fact, I might not even have been aware that she and Laura were wearing similar jerseys until someone pointed it out. That coincidence wouldn't impinge on my psychological state.
    – deadrat
    Feb 5, 2016 at 19:27
  • @CarlLeth -the term "coincidence" has that connotation...see the definition "...especially in a way that is unlikely (rare) and surprising."
    – user66974
    Feb 5, 2016 at 19:30

This may not be the answer you're looking for, but oftentimes it FEELS like a coincidence or serendipity when in fact you are experiencing a form of confirmation bias known as the frequency illusion:

The illusion in which a word, a name, or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards (not to be confused with the recency illusion or selection bias).[40] Colloquially, this illusion is known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.



If it is pleasant, and gives a good feeling, then I suggest serendipity:

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

(Oxford Dictionaries)

  • Conversely, you might use perfect storm to refer to more unpleasant coincidences... Feb 5, 2016 at 18:32

The term happenstance is my favorite for these moments, chiefly because they make me happy and the beginning of the word starts the same as 'happy'.

I was surprised to find it had been coined so recently:

happenstance (n.) 1855, from happening + ending from circumstance.

(Online Etymology Dictionary at etymonline.com)


The phrase pure coincidence is the best when you describe such a situation. You could also consider using pure accident or (pure) chance. Accident means:

An event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.

Chance means:

The occurrence of events in the absence of any obvious intention or cause

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

Your example:

While driving around a round-about listening to the radio, I heard the term round-about in a song by pure accident/chance.

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