In my native language Swedish the word chans is almost like the English word chance but it has a positive connotation. Therefor as a swede it sounds a bit strange when you read something like "the chance of getting cancer." What's the English word for chance but with a positive connotation?

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    Yes, in English chance and probability are neutral. Risk is negative. Luck is usually positive, but it doesn't quite fit your example. – Peter Jan 24 at 10:32
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    Maybe. Every language has its own strengths. Another possibility is prospect. – Peter Jan 24 at 10:42
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    @user405662, to me "odds" is neutral, but maybe not to others. – Peter Jan 24 at 10:45
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    @user405662 odds is indeed neutral as Peter suggests. It is one of the ways of stating the probability that one thing is so or will happen rather than another. See merriam-webster.com/dictionary/odds – Anton Jan 24 at 11:21
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    As I understand the question, it is looking for a word that is analogous to chance as used in the chance of X, rather than as used in by chance. If that is so, it may be a good idea to make it clearer in the question. Three out of the four answers offered so far correspond more to the latter uses of chance than to the former. – jsw29 Jan 25 at 22:17

It looks like you are trying to find out the word for chance with a positive meaning.

The recommended one would be "opportunity"

An opportunity is a situation in which it is possible for you to do something that you want to do.

[Collins Cobuild]


Luck (as Kate Bunting suggests in comment) is just such a word. There is such a phrase and thing as bad luck, of course, but luck unmodified tends to mean good luck. The following jocose commonplace plays with the resultant tension:

If it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all. (QI link)

And this quatrain from A. E. Housman (Last Poems XXVIII) embodies the assumption that luck unmodified tends to mean good luck:

Little is the luck I've had,
And oh, 'tis comfort small
To think that many another lad
Has had no luck at all.

  • "ef dar warn’t no bad luck, I wouldn’t hab no luck at all" implies subjunctive mood. The verb "warn't" says the writer used it as "were not" and the main clause verb is "would", the past form of modal verb. I recommend the quoted one be "If it weren't for bad luck". – Brandon Jan 24 at 11:50

Fortune is another one. It operates similar to luck in that you must add adjectives to it to make it negative (ill fortune for example).



the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

(Sadly, I can't find a Youtube version of the old Disney song.)


One English word that has in recent decades acquired an implicitly positive sense of "chance" in common usage is fortuity—a word more often encountered in its adjectival form fortuitous, as this Ngram chart matching "fortuitous" (blue line) against "fortuity" (red line) for the period 1800–2019 indicates:

Here are the entries for both terms in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003):

fortuitous adj (1653) 1 : occurring by chance 2 a : FORTUNATE, LUCKY {from a cost standpoint, the company's timing is fortuitousBusiness Week} b : coming or happening by a lucky chance {belted down the stairs, and there was a fortuitous train —Doris Lessing} ... usage Sense 2a has been influenced in meaning by fortunate. It has been in standard if not elevated use for some 70 years, but is still disdained by some critics. Sense 2b, a blend of 1 and 2a, is virtually unnoticed by the critics. Sense 1 is the only sense commonly used in negative constructions.

fortuity n (ca. 1747) 1 : the quality or state of being fortuitous 2 : a chance event or occurrence

Although the Eleventh Collegiate report that that sense 2a of fortuitous has been standard in English since approximately 1933, it is not mentioned in the Fifth Collegiate (1936) or the Sixth Collegiate (1949), both of which offer this brief entry for the word:

fortuitous adj. Happening by chance or accident; chance.

Sense 2a begins to break through in the Seventh Collegiate (1963), with this entry:

fortuitous adj 1 : occurring by chance 2 : FORTUNATE, LUCKY

However, definition 2 is not reflected in the synonym discussion elsewhere in the Seventh Collegiate that attempts to distinguish fortuitous from the related terms accidental, contingent, casual, incidental, and adventitious. There, the gloss on fortuitous is limited the following clause:

FORTUITOUS so strongly suggests chance that it often connotes entire absence of cause;

The further elaboration of the Seventh Collegiate's definition 2 into senses 2a and 2b occurs in the Tenth Collegiate (1993), in the same form in which the entry appears in the Eleventh Collegiate. Rather amusingly, the Tenth Collegiate takes the opportunity of noticing the previously unrecognized 2b sense of the word to add the usage note in which it remarks that sense 2b "is virtually unnoticed by the critics."

As used by many English speakers today, fortuitous and fortuity, bear a strong implication of "fortunate" and "good fortune," although some people continue to use the terms in the more traditional neutral sense of "chance."

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