This has bugged me for a number of years and the English language is full of less often or rarely used words so I thought I'd finally ask this question.

Take the a situation where an artist mistakenly smears paint across a canvas while hanging it and leaves. He means to come back and completely paint over the mistake, but someone walks by and notices it and attributes it to genius. The artist is surprised at this, but doesn't correct the guest and accepts the praise.

Is there a word for accepting credit for an unintended action?

Another example would be a person who says something and it's considered hilarious by everyone around them. They didn't mean it that way, but they accept the credit for the wit without correcting the audience.

This has happened often enough in my life that it really bugs me that I haven't found a single descriptive word meant for this type of situation. As you can tell from the number of words I'm using to describe this, there's an obvious need for a single word in these cases.

  • The event itself could be called a "fortuitous accident". But I don't know a word for the whole "make a fortuitous accident, get praised for it, and bluff your way through" situation.
    – John Feltz
    Nov 8, 2016 at 20:20
  • 4
    op·por·tun·ism n.: the art, policy, or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances, especially with little regard for principles or ultimate consequences [M-W Unabridged]
    – Gnawme
    Nov 8, 2016 at 21:11
  • 3
    Type the word serendipitous into the search box in the upper right of your screen, and see if results indicate that the word is of use to you.
    – deadrat
    Nov 8, 2016 at 22:06
  • Nassin Taleb has anticipated your need and repurposed the "black swan" idiom to suit. Taleb's black swan is basically when some seeming minor event, or random event turns out to be a game-changer. amazon.com/Black-Swan-Improbable-Robustness-Fragility/dp/…. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory
    – Phil Sweet
    Nov 9, 2016 at 0:03

1 Answer 1


Cash in comes to my mind. I know it is mostly used in financial contexts, but it might work well in the situations you mention.

According to Oxford, to cash in means to take advantage or exploit a situation. (Check the list of synonyms.)

'To a certain extent, he's cashing in on the latest literary fad.'

Another definition found here reads: "To profit from; to use an opportunity to maximum advantage, especially financially."

Opportunism is also a good fit, as Gnawme suggests.

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