I am looking for a single word similar to a turn of events, changing one's stars/destiny, passing a crossroads or doing something that would cause someone's life to have a dramatic change. From a writing perspective it is similar to a "plot twist" except happening to a person, if that makes sense. It does not have to necessarily be a catastrophic change, which for example happened as a result of guilt or a loss, but a change which sets a person on a very different path.


After that happened George's life would never be the same; he'd reached a/an ______________ .

  • 2
    One common way is a turning point, but it's perhaps not dramatic or impactful enough for your needs. One notch up, then, is an inflection point [in her life].
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:12
  • Does it actually have to be one word? Perhaps consider including the 'phrase request' tag. Have a look at the info attached to tags as questions which comply are more likely to remain open. EG The 'single-word-request' tag says To ensure your question is not closed as off-topic, please be specific about the intended use of the word. YOU MUST INCLUDE A SAMPLE SENTENCE demonstrating how the word would be used. Please use the "phrase-requests" tag instead if you seek more than just a single word
    – Spagirl
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:32
  • @DanBron please feel free to change your comment into an answer since this is the closest so far.
    – FrontEnd
    Mar 14, 2017 at 14:13
  • 1
    Not a real answer, just suggestion, but you could use "crossroads".
    – Zikato
    Mar 14, 2017 at 14:37
  • 1
    Alternatively after the first example sentence: He'd suffered a stroke of fate which would change the course of his life permanently.
    – Brian J
    Mar 14, 2017 at 17:53

9 Answers 9


The term watershed is often used for this. From Cambridge Dictionaries:

watershed noun (BIG CHANGE)

​[Uncountable] an event or period that is important because it represents a big change and the start of new developments:
a watershed event/moment
The discovery of penicillin was a watershed in the history of medicine.

The origin of its figurative usage appears to be from the geological term, where a ridge or other geological feature separates flowing water into different drainage systems. Thus the metaphor is very similar to a crossroads or fork in the road, but perhaps with less implication of a choice of path (the water doesn't choose which way to go, just like "history" didn't choose in the example above).

So for your example

After that happened George's life would never be the same; he'd reached a watershed.

would especially make sense if the event "that happened" was not of George's choosing or possibly if George did not foresee the consequences. You could also say that

[The thing that happened] was a watershed for George; afterward, his life would never be the same.

or, even more simply,

[The thing that happened] was a watershed in George's life.

Note that a watershed can be good or bad, both in the causal event and in consequences.


One common way is

Turning point

a point at which a significant change occurs

  • Winning that game was the turning point of the team's season.
    That job was a major turning point in her career. (Merriam-Webster)

image of two feet standing at a *turning point*, indicated by three yellow arrows painted on the ovens to, pointing in three different directions, all ahead

But as this phrase is used regularly, perhaps it's not dramatic or impactful enough for your needs.

One notch up, then, is an

Inflection point

  1. Mathematics a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs.
  2. US (in business) a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point. (Google definition)

And again from Investopedia (sorry for quoting the entire thing, but I think all the points are helpful and material):

An inflection point is an event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation and can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result.

Companies, industries, sectors and economies are dynamic and constantly evolving. Inflection points are more significant than the small day-to-day progress typically made, and the effects of the change are often well known and widespread.

Based on mathematical charting models, the inflection point is where the direction of a curve changes in response to an event. In order to qualify, the shift must be noticeable or decisive and attributed to a particular cause. This principle can be applied to a variety of economic, business and financial information, such as shifts in the gross domestic product (GDP) or changes in security prices, but it is not used in reference to normal market fluctuations that are not the result of an event.

graph of an inflection point


The words "epiphany," "revelation," "realization" and "turnabout" all come to mind to describe a shift in perception, however these mostly have a positive tone and I'm not sure if that is what you have in mind.

  • 3
    Excellent offers. Is there a citation that would help the requestor see why your offers are so good? Mar 14, 2017 at 16:06

In addition to Dan's answer I would also suggest: pivot point, tipping point, changed gears, fast tracked (all these phrases used with 'unexpectedly' could create the mood that you are going for)


I would suggest "crossroads." It suggests multiple possible alternate paths, and also implies (somewhat) not turning back.

"a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences."

In the OP's example:

After that happened, George's life would never be the same; he'd reached a crossroads

Another alternative expression might be "point of no return:"

After that happened, George's life would never be the same; he'd reached a point of no return.


New chapter. It's one that even the non-math minds (moi) can understand.

  • I don't "new chapter" implies the *unexpected" aspect the OP is looking for.
    – Skooba
    Mar 14, 2017 at 19:46
  • @user225217 - New chapter is very good, so it would help your answer to add some outside source or reference that will help the requestor see how that's used. Just saying. Mar 14, 2017 at 20:14

This is also called a seminal event or seminal moment. Something that happens that changes everything that happens after that. Hope this helps you.

  • Welcome to ELU, please add a source to support your answer.
    – JJJ
    Aug 8, 2018 at 20:45
  • I paraphrased a bit in my definition. I can give you definition from mobile-dictionary.reverso.net that states "Seminal is used to describe things such as books, works, events, and experiences that have a great influence on a particular field." The word is actually derived from semin which implies planting a seed to bring forth something new. Aug 9, 2018 at 22:05
  • To use your sentence, it might be completed this way: "After that happened George's life would never be the same; he reached a seminal moment." Aug 9, 2018 at 22:08

This thread is old, but might I add "revolutionary" to the list of suggestions? Obviously the sentence would have to be modified a bit, but it might suit your purposes well

  • 1
    Thanks for your first post. Can you add a reference to some source that would help to support that the word you chose fits to what the asker would want? Oct 17, 2018 at 14:02

What about breakthrough? It is not something you actually reach, so you should have to rephrase, but it feels stronger than "turning point", can't say in respect to "watershed", though.

  • Hi DrSh4rk, welcome to EL&U. This isn't a bad start, but it's too short: the system will flag it as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. It's best if you edit your answer to provide more information - e.g., add a published definition of breakthrough (linked to the source) and examples of its use in this context. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) Jan 20, 2019 at 10:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.