Is there an idiom for an unexpected solution? For more specificity, I want to write about how if you're sincere enough, sometimes you can find a solution in unexpected places.

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    Not clear what you mean by sincerity. Persistent? Dedicated?
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 11:46
  • 1
    I wonder if OP has English as a second language. For example, in French, I have noticed sincere has other nuanced meanings. An English idiom suited to OP’s request might be “if one keeps one’s nose to the grindstone”, but that only refers to persistence of effort and doesn’t address the unexpected, presumably positive result. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 14:02
  • In the context you seem to be Asking about no, there is no such idiom. '… more specificity…' confuses the issue but the real problem seems to be what 'sincerity' could have to do with this? Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 18:58

5 Answers 5


Serendipitous (Merriam-Webster) fits the bill. M-W defines it as "obtained or characterized by serendipidy", and serendipity is "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for".

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    It's an excellent word to have in your vocabulary, but I'm not sure exactly what OP intends with if you're sincere enough. To me, that implies if you look hard enough, whereas serendipity usually involves good fortune or a discovery that wasn't explicitly being sought, as you say. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 11:22
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    True. "Fortune favours the prepared mind" (Pasteur), if they want a proverb rather than a single word, perhaps?
    – Tevildo
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 12:54
  • Yeah - in OP's context, "Fortune favours the prepared mind" might specifically imply you noticed a possible solution in an unexpected place (but "unexpected" still implies you weren't actively searching at the time). But adapting Gary Player's The more I practice the luckier I get from golf, perhaps The harder I look / work, the more I find / get. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 16:51
  • I think 'serendipity' means 'fortunate co-incidence' which does seem to fit your MW citation but hardly to come close to the 'unexpected solution' in the Question. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 19:46

You can stumble upon a solution.

You encounter it on your search for a solution, and trip over it. You find it by chance.

  • Is that different from chancing upon a solution?
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 15:06
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    @tchrist In some respects, yes. Both have the element of chance but stumble upon has an additional element of self-deprecation, it seems to me.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 16:43

The term I propose is perhaps not very much used, but as it represents the concept of fortunate discovery ("fortunate: lucky, favoured by fortune"), it might be found to be a close enough term.

(SOED) eureka noun 2 A fortunate discovery

It is found a lot in attributive function. Apparently, it is sometimes found between quotes or capitalized.


  • It was the classic eureka moment. The Guardian (2016)


• (Genius: A Very Short Introduction - Andrew Robinson · 2011) ... a 'eureka experience': a sudden, surprising illumination that produces a breakthrough.

• (Handbook of Creativity - John A. Glover, ‎Royce R. Ronning, ‎Cecil R. Reynolds · 2013) ... a eureka event. Here I will propose an initial definition of the extreme case of a pure eureka event as an extremely sudden, reorganizing, extraordinary break away from the subject's previous ideas.

• (The Radical: Vol. 9 - Sidney H. Morse · 2023) ... the eureka of one who has attained the vision of the ideal Helusion -the eureka of one whose eye has caught sight of the summits of the unconditioned- the eureka of one who , his Alps surmounted , peers from wild heights of intuitition ...

• (The Bodily Roots of Experience in Psychotherapy - Ruella Frank · 2022) the “eureka” of “I can.” In this discerning progression, Husserl gives assiduous analyses of animate organisms that “document their foundational unity with psyche in the fact of 'feelings,'

• (The National Quarterly Review - Volume 2 - Edward Isidore Sears, ‎David Allyn Gorton, ‎Charles H. Woodman · 1860) the eureka of Professor Lindley , in 1830 , was not his eureka of 1836 , and that in 1845 he ignored what he had then so triumphantly propounded as the veritable and perfect natural system . But we would not lightly regard the labors of ...

• (The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah: Recovering the Key to ... - Leonora Leet · 1999) ... the “eureka” of mentally discovered connections. This practice of descent and ascent through the vowel series has two further ramifications that should be explored in view of their extraordinary richness of implication

• (Lacanian Affects: The function of affect in Lacan's work - Colette Soler · 2015) ... the eureka of knowledge that one receives, and the affective effect as an added benefit (surcroît) 21 can be forgotten.

  • Eureka is not a noun. Please show where the SOED says this. The OED lists only “The proprietary name of an alloy of copper and nickel...” for noun usage. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:26
  • @TinfoilHat Here is the full entry (bar etymology), in the 1993 edition page 861: "eureka int. & n. Also E- E17. […] A int. Expr. exultation at a sudden discovery. E17. B n. 1 A cry of eureka! M17. 2 A fortunate discovery. M19. 3 (E-) (Proprietary name for) an alloy of copper and nickel used for electrical filament and resistance wire. E20.". The noun is rare but is found in the references I provide in "noun territory".
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 20:54
  • Lacan? Ha ha, c'est une traduction. Et peu de traducteurs arrivent a bien traduire des textes sur lui.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 13:41

A well-established idiom for one kind of unexpected solution is cutting the Gordian knot. Its implication is that the solution is found by decisiveness and imagination — and especially, by discarding preconceptions about what the solution should look like. Whether this fits OP’s goals depends on what OP means by “…if you’re sincere enough…”, which as noted in comments is a little unclear.


I offer these two similar idioms.

Fortune favours the brave
Fortune favours the bold

Referenced by Farlex as brave and bold.

The OP writes

I want to write about how if you're sincere enough, sometimes you can find a solution in unexpected places.

One needs to be sincere to be brave or to be bold. Even people who are acting rashly in their boldness or their bravery, believe their action is right.

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