To my significant consternation, I have forgotten a word which is used when an individual happens to find or discover something unexpectedly.

For example, one might say "I was browsing through Stack Exchange the other day when I _____ upon a most challenging question. Of course, I helped the gentleman as soon as I could since he asked so nicely."

I have a feeling it is a scarcely used word.

N.B the word I am looking for is not 'Chanced upon'

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I suspect you may be looking for 'lit' or 'lighted'

Per the OED

to light on or upon (or of): to happen to come upon, chance upon; to meet with or discover, esp. unexpectedly or by accident; to come across, whether as the result of search or not.

They give the following examples:

1738 J. Wesley Wks. (1830) I. 38 I called at Alringham, and there lit upon a Quaker.

1867 E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest (1876) I. 547 I have as yet only once lighted on the use of the word in the singular.

Some more recent citations from around the web:

Going over this old ground, she poked through the pile of papers she had brought with her to chaperone her during her dinner. There was the card for the children there were the lecture notes, there was the note she had written to Karel. She tore it up, and pushed the pieces into the folder. The folder was full of such scraps. Then, wavering, she lit upon another new postcard -

The Realms of Gold: A Novel Margaret Drabble 2013.

And when I lit upon the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, I knew I had found what I was searching for.

Mark D White Kantian Ethics and Economics Autonomy, Dignity and Character copyright 2018 Stanford University Press

  • 1
    excellent, this is exactly the word I am looking for – William Dec 6 at 16:32
  • @William That's a bit strange then, since stumble upon is far more common. But this works too. – only_pro Dec 6 at 22:36
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    @only_pro Why is it strange that the ‘far more common’ stumble upon didn’t turn out to be the ‘short’ and ‘scarcely used’ word the OP was looking for? – Spagirl Dec 6 at 23:49
  • Do you have any more recent examples of this? I'd argue that this is not at all common usage (native BrE speaker). – Steve Melnikoff Dec 7 at 10:05
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    @SteveMelnikoff You are perfectly welcome to argue that, but be aware that since NO-ONE is claiming otherwise, it will be a bit of a short argument. The OP asked for a word which they acknowledged was 'scarcely used'. I am also a native BrE speaker if that is relevant. I really don't understand what your point is, the word I supplied is the word the OP was looking for.... – Spagirl Dec 7 at 11:03

Did you mean stumble?

4 a : to come unexpectedly or by chance

(source: Merriam-Webster)

I was looking through that old chest of draws upstairs when I stumbled upon a rather suspicious looking package.

looks pretty natural to me.

  • Is there a nGram-ish way of finding out what the most used word before upon (other than once) is? IMO it's a cliche of a sentence utterly demanding this word. – Mazura Dec 7 at 1:07
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    @Mazura look upon is about 17 times more common than stumble upon, while the latter is only modestly more common than happen upon. The other "upon" answers are even less common. – Chappo Dec 7 at 4:32
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    The phrase stumble upon is so extremely common for this meaning that it was chosen as the name for a website designed to provide opportunities to discover new content: Stumbleupon.com (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StumbleUpon – barbecue Dec 7 at 22:06

You could use happen upon:

: to find or meet (someone or something) by chance

// She happened on a little cottage in the woods.

// I happened upon them at the grocery store.

Not the single word you're looking for, but this phrasal verb fits perfectly.

"I was browsing through Stack Exchange the other day when I came across a most challenging question."

come across - "if you come across something or someone, you find them or meet them by chance."

Example sentences:

I came across a $100 bill on my way to work yesterday!

I came across Peter at the bookshop after work.

If you come across my wallet, please let me know. I forget where I left it.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

bump into
to encounter especially by chance.

Though it is quite informal, but short and metaphorical.

  • 1
    I would never use this in the context provided by the OP. The OP is talking about visually navigating a website (SE), whereas I would use bump into only in a physical situation. For example, bumping into a friend at the mall or two cars bumping into each other. – whatisit Dec 6 at 22:56

I would chance (no pun intended):

struck upon

  • 4
    Please note, the system has flagged your answer for deletion as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on this site is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. You can edit your answer to avoid deletion - for example, adding a published example or definition for your proposed phrase, linked to the source. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the Tour :-) – Chappo Dec 6 at 20:07

"Serendipitous" appears to fit the bill precisely

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    Unfortunately, it does not. Using that word makes the sentence ungrammatical: "I was browsing through Stack Exchange the other day when I serendipitous upon a most challenging question." In fact, the OP is requesting a verb (as some other answers/responses have stated) and serendipitous is an adjective... Serendipitous also has a strong meaning of luck or luckiness, whereas the OP is simply asking for discovering something unexpectedly. – whatisit Dec 6 at 22:46
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    Please note, the system has flagged your answer for deletion as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on this site is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. You can edit your answer to avoid deletion - for example, adding a published definition for your word, linked to the source. [I note that doing so might have alerted you to the mismatch between your word and what the OP was asking for]. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the Tour :-) – Chappo Dec 6 at 23:53
  • Perhaps we should coin the word serendipped. "I serendipped into a pile of rhubarb." – barbecue Dec 7 at 22:11

protected by tchrist Dec 7 at 3:44

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