All is in the title. I don't understand the differences between those words. I would say that in increasing value it gives :

Incident < accident < mishap < harm

But is that right?

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    Have you looked them up in a dictionary? For a start, it's not 'a harm'. Harm is an uncountable noun meaning injury or damage (physical or otherwise). – Kate Bunting Feb 11 at 17:48
  • That s what i was thinking about... It felt wrong to write a harm... Well Yes i looked up in a dictionnary. But this is not really meaningful. I even read an article about maritime harm but none of those information convinced me – Marine Galantin Feb 11 at 17:54
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    @MarineGalantin 'maritime harm'? Are you concerned with legal language here? Can you give the context of what you are writing or reading? Are you writing or reading a particular sentence? Also, there's no guarantee that these all lie on the same continuum; there's no guarantee that if you put them on a continuum of 'severity', that they will all be comparable to each other (two may be about the same point, or vague enough that they're about the same). – Mitch Feb 11 at 19:00
  • Also, have you looked at the other synonyms? They might extend the comparison and fit in in different ways. Event, occurrence, trauma, injury, misfortune, disaster, difficulty. Are these in the same area? That would give a getter idea of what exactly you're looking for (in addition to whether you're reading or writing). – Mitch Feb 11 at 20:18
  • No what is bothering me is how to use mishap. Then looking on the internet, i understood that maybe it would be better to restate this world in a widder context like with 3 others words that also depicts a harmfull situation. In particular, if you write those 4 words on the internet, you ll see a page that is talking about maritime harm. But I m not at all concerned by legislation haha – Marine Galantin Feb 12 at 5:23

Incident = something that happens, good or bad.

Accident = something, usually bad, that happens without anyone intending it to.

Mishap = minor unfortunate incident.

  • 'incident' has the feeling of a euphemism, that really the only reason you're mentioning it is because something happened that was not particularly good. – Mitch Feb 12 at 14:25
  • Can you please give a few examples of mishaps? (that s the word i m trying to include in my vocabulary). Is for example, walking in poop in the street mishap? – Marine Galantin Feb 12 at 14:42
  • @Mitch I suppose so, although the first example given by en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/incident is 'several amusing incidents'. – Kate Bunting Feb 13 at 9:02
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    @MarineGalantin Yes, I would say so. Falling over without hurting yourself badly, or spilling a cup of coffee, could be described as mishaps. – Kate Bunting Feb 13 at 9:08

Incident = Something bad happened. UK police nowadays uses "incident" instead of "accident" to signify that the event should have been avoided. Like crashing your car while driving drunk or speeding would be called an "incident", not an "accident".

Accident = Something bad happened because someone didn't watch out, no intention.

Mishap = Similar to accident, but usually with more harmless consequences or no harm at all. "He stumbled and almost fell" - a mishap, but without any harm at all.

Harm = Damage happened. This may be completely intentional, and even positive. Like the police's strong presence in the streets harmed the drug dealers' business. So "harm" doesn't fall into any order relative to the other three terms.

  • Neither an incident nor an accident is necessarily bad. – Hot Licks Feb 12 at 3:53
  • Yes, particularly as the phrases "happy accident" and "amusing incident" are both fairly common. I can't imagine either of those adjectives applying to 'harm' but I can imagine an "amusing mishap", but only if it happened to someone else and didn't involve much pain. In fact there are entire TV shows dedicated to "amusing mishaps" captured on phones and video cameras. – BoldBen Feb 12 at 10:19
  • @BoldBen And there are just as many story plots begun as happy accidents. But that relies on 'accident' having multiple meanings. – Mitch Feb 12 at 14:27
  • Related trivia: a chapter in Jules Verne's book "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (as translated into English) is "Accident or Incident?" – Literalman Feb 15 at 16:02

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