I'm reading a book where it is curiously written that someone was opportune to do something, implying that they had the opportunity to do it, but I can't find that usage anywhere else:

The man was opportune to meet the lady.

Is this correct?

  • It sounds weird, I agree. What book is this, by the way? Sep 21 '20 at 20:42
  • "Opportune" implies a degree of fortuitous benefit as in "The policeman appeared at the opportune moment just as I was wondering which road to take". It is unclear from your example whether the writer indicated that the recipient of the fortuitous benefit was the man or the lady. If it was the lady who benefitted (as in the policeman example above) then it just about makes sense but if it was the man who benefitted then it doesn't make much sense at all and is based on a misunderstanding of the normal meaning of 'opportune'.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 21 '20 at 23:10

The following site notes that this unusual usage of the term opportune is common in Nigerian English. There is evidence, however, of its use also in other contexts:

Opportune: When we use the word “opportune” in Nigeria, we do so in relation to the word “opportunity.” We add the suffix “ed” to give it a feel of something from the past. You often hear people say, “I was opportuned to be in London last week” and so on. The truth is that there is nothing like “opportuned” anywhere in the Standard English. The correct word is “opportune.” It is an adjective; therefore it has no past tense. However, some verbs (participles) can function as adjectives or adverbs in a sentence. For instance, the verbs, fattened, overwhelmed, amused, upset and mystified are all participles.

The word “opportune” means appropriate or well-timed.  (Example: “the opportune arrival of the ambulance saved his life”) The error arises perhaps, from thinking that “opportune” is a derivative of “opportunity.” It is not.


Merriam-Webster gives the definition as

1: suitable or convenient for a particular occurrence
//an opportune moment
//the legal authorities helped by the opportune use of their powers of arrest
— T. E. Vedney
2: occurring at an appropriate time
//an opportune offer of assistance
//The book's publication is opportune.

Thus, when something is convenient for someone, "opportune" refers to the something that is convenient, not the person for whom it is convenient. It generally isn't used to refer to people, but I suppose you could refer to someone as "opportune" if their presence was helpful for someone else. Also, it's about the timing being lucky, not merely luck in general.

The term "fortunate" would be more appropriate in your sentence.


"Opportune" is a hair archaic (having peaked in the 20s), and is rarely used outside of the idiom "opportune time" (though "opportune moment" appears to be gathering inertia as of late).

The construction in the quote is not particularly common, but apparently not unheard of, and it would generally be understood.

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