I need a single-word to describe something good that (unexpectedly) resulted from something bad. This good thing could not have occurred without the bad event happening first, as a precursor.

Example sentence: "I got in a horrible car accident and broke my leg, but falling in love with my nurse at the hospital was the ____," (something like that).

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    @Mazura: the older question is asking about a sort-of-converse of what this question is asking for: it wants a word which implies that a positive occurrence may have a negative aspect, while this wants a word which implies that a negative occurrence may have a positive aspect. (In any case, it's NOT a duplicate.)
    – Marthaª
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:02
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    The OP of the dupe would agree with you given their green check mark on the +20, "unalloyed pleasure". But the rest of SE is going with +56, "silver lining" (I prefer +25, blessing in disguise). Instead of searching "silver lining" should I look up Serendipitous? This is a dupe of something, I guarantee you. The question doesn't matter. Answers do.
    – Mazura
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:11
  • Unlucky at cards, lucky in love.
    – henning
    Jan 10, 2019 at 13:31
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    Does it really need to be a single word, seeing that you have accepted ‘silver lining’?
    – PJTraill
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:50

7 Answers 7


silver lining

"I got in a horrible car accident and broke my leg, but falling in love with my nurse at the hospital was the silver lining"

From Wikipedia

A silver lining is a metaphor for optimism in the common English-language which means a negative occurrence may have a positive aspect to it.

Etymonline says:

a "bright side" which proverbially accompanies even the darkest trouble; by 1843, apparently from oft-quoted lines from Milton's "Comus," where the silver lining is the light of the moon shining from behind the cloud.

Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud Turn forth her silver lining on the night? I did not err, there does a sable cloud, Turn out her silver lining on the night And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.

To which Thomas Warton added the commentary: "When all succour ſeems to be lost, Heaven unexpectedly presents the ſilver lining oſ a ſable cloud to the virtuous."

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    Beat me to it :) Nice answer
    – wrymug
    Jan 9, 2019 at 17:42
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    For those unfamiliar, "silver lining" is recognizable to English speakers as a part of the phrase "every cloud has a silver lining," meaning that dark things can still have bright spots. This saying is so common to native English speakers that just "silver lining" is instantly recognizable.
    – Michael W.
    Jan 9, 2019 at 17:47
  • Not actually a single word, but still the best.
    – PJTraill
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:49
  • @MichaelW. I'm a native English speaker familiar with "silver lining", but I've never actually heard the full expression :0
    – mowwwalker
    Jan 10, 2019 at 21:14

Serendipitous. Adjective.

I got in a horrible car accident and broke my leg, but falling in love with my nurse at the hospital was serendipitous

Wiktionary says:

combination of events which are not individually beneficial, but occurring together to produce a good or wonderful outcome.

The idea behind serendipity (its noun form) is that a beneficial outcome emerges from one or more chance events. Your example speaker didn't choose to get in an accident, but that accident led to falling in love. Another example: a romantic comedy like Pretty Woman may have plenty of misfortune but it has a serendipitous outcome: two people fall in love.

One phrase associated with serendipity that seems especially applicable to your example is "happy accident," one translation of felix culpa.

  • If you want a movie reference, how about Serendipity
    – Barmar
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:30
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    Serendipity isn't always about one of the events being bad. It's just a coincidence that works out well.
    – Barmar
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:32
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    I am surprised to gather that serendipity has come so far from its original meaning of, if I remember aright ‘the art of making happy discoveries by accident’!
    – PJTraill
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:48
  • This is completely wrong (just glance in any dictionary, such as the OED built in to any Mac).
    – Fattie
    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:28
  • @Fattie Would you clarify? For instance, this source is also close to the Wiktionary entry: en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/serendipitous . Merriam-Webster lists a similar entry: ": the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for also : an instance of this." Perhaps the OED doesn't have this definition? (Possible if it's still from the 1986 edition; also dictionaries disagree.) I agree with Barmar's note that the usage extends to all unanticipated events, including ones that aren't bad, but it's the best single-word answer I have. Jan 11, 2019 at 14:34

noun: blessing in disguise

an apparent misfortune that eventually has good results

  • Welcome to EL&U. If you quote someone else's words, it's essential that you make this clear (eg using quotation marks or blockquote formatting) and acknowledge the source. It's not only polite to give the original author credit, it also avoids the more serious charge of plagiarism. I've edited your post accordingly, but please include correct attribution in future :-) For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) Jan 12, 2019 at 10:17

On the Bright Side would work here:

used to refer to the good part of something that is mostly bad

In your sentence:

"I got in a horrible car accident and broke my leg, but on the bright side, I ended up falling in love with my nurse at the hospital."


A term for the situation is an ill wind.

That's short for the proverb ‘It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.’  Wiktionary paraphrases that as:

An action or occurrence must be very bad indeed if it brings no benefit to anyone.

According to The Phrase Finder, this is a many-centuries-old sailing metaphor, meaning that:

a wind that was unlucky for one person would bring good fortune to another.

The term is often used when mentioning the good outcome, as in these examples from The Free Dictionary:

The rain caused flooding, but it may help the farmers.  It's an ill wind, as they say.


The fire destroyed half the village.  For the builders business has never been better.  It’s an ill wind…

And Collins:

But it's an ill wind; I recovered and married one of my nurses from that hospital.

  • Very good. My guess is that you may be British - an oft-used proverb among an older generation.
    – WS2
    Jan 10, 2019 at 18:30
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    I would say that ‘an ill wind’ refers not to the good that comes from the bad situation, but to the situation itself. Indeed, the ‘ill wind’ is one that is so bad that nobody benefits, and the proverb says how exceptional that is. The last two examples may appear to contradict me, but I feel that there one is meant to hear ‘that blows nobody good’ mentally.
    – PJTraill
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:45
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    To amplify, one would not say ‘falling in love with a nurse was the ill wind’. I fear that for me the medical context with ‘ill’ arouses associations with a different sense of wind.
    – PJTraill
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:54
  • @WS2: Yes, I'm English. Not young, but would be depressed to be called ‘old’…
    – gidds
    Jan 10, 2019 at 20:10
  • @PJTraill: Note that I started with ‘A term for the situation is…’!
    – gidds
    Jan 10, 2019 at 20:10

Consolation is almost exactly that. OED:

"the comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment

  • there was consolation in knowing that others were worse off"

So, to use the original example: ""I got in a horrible car accident and broke my leg, but falling in love with my nurse at the hospital was a consolation".

Although, compensation might work better in that example.

  • I would expect to hear ‘was a consolation’, but otherwise good.
    – PJTraill
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:51
  • @PJTraill I agree; fixed.
    – Nagora
    Jan 11, 2019 at 12:45

The word irony has undergone a bit of a semantic shift and is often used for a perceived contradiction, among others a contradiction between one's expectations and an actual fact or event.

Merriam-Webster gives as one of its meanings

incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result

and continues with examples in which the outcome is worse than expected; but it can be used for better outcomes as well, like in your case:

"Falling in love with the nurse was the irony of my accident." Or "ironically, getting fired was the best thing that had happened to me in a long time".

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    I really don't think irony qualifies. youtube.com/watch?v=R36nn5hFsg8
    – GSerg
    Jan 10, 2019 at 8:05
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    @GSerg (1) I'm not talking about mere coincidents; I'm talking about paradoxical outcomes, or situational irony. (2) Even if, M-W has this to say to arguments like yours: "The historical record shows that irony and ironic have been used imprecisely for almost 100 years at least, and often to refer to coincidence. [...] while some feel this is an incorrect use of the word, it is merely a new one." Jan 10, 2019 at 9:23
  • It's a bit unfortunate that the video discusses irony versus coincidents specifically, which in this case serves as a distraction. For me the reasons to mention the video were "a result opposite to, and in mockery of, the appropriate result", and the specific examples of irony given. Your two examples may qualify as irony only in certain context: it is only ironic to fall in love with a nurse if you ended up in the hospital while trying to avoid relationships, and it is only ironic to enjoy getting fired when you were trying to get fired because you wanted to feel miserable.
    – GSerg
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:34
  • @GSerg As is specifically explained in the M-W article, not all uses require the context you mention. Even pure coincidences without any contradiction whatsoever have been called "ironic" since before the wars, whether we like it or not. Jan 10, 2019 at 12:49

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