AskDefine | Define destiny

Dictionary Definition



1 an event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future [syn: fate]
2 the ultimate agency that predetermines the course of events (often personified as a woman); "we are helpless in the face of Destiny" [syn: Fate]
3 your overall circumstances or condition in life (including everything that happens to you); "whatever my fortune may be"; "deserved a better fate"; "has a happy lot"; "the luck of the Irish"; "a victim of circumstances"; "success that was her portion" [syn: fortune, fate, luck, lot, circumstances, portion]

User Contributed Dictionary




From destinée.


  1. That to which any person or thing is destined; a predetermined state; a condition foreordained by the Divine or by human will; fate; lot; doom.
  2. The fixed order of things; invincible necessity; fate; an irresistible power or agency conceived of as determining the future, whether in general or of an individual.


Related terms




Extensive Definition

Destiny refers to a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual. It is a concept based on the belief that there is a fixed natural order to the universe.

Different concepts of destiny and fate

Destiny may be envisaged as fore-ordained by the Divine (for example, the Protestant concept of predestination) or by human will (for example, the American concept of Manifest Destiny).
A sense of destiny in its oldest human sense is in the soldier's fatalistic image of the "bullet that has your name on it" or the moment when your number "comes up," or a romance that was "meant to be." The human sense that there must be a hidden purpose in the random lottery governs the selection of Theseus to be among the youths to be sacrificed to the Minotaur.
Destiny may be seen either as a fixed sequence of events that is inevitable and unchangeable, or that individuals choose their own destiny by choosing different paths throughout their life.

Destiny in literature and popular culture

Many Greek legends and tales teach the futility of trying to outmaneuver an inexorable fate that has been correctly predicted. This form of irony is important in Greek tragedy, as it is in Oedipus Rex and the Duque de Rivas' play that Verdi transformed into La Forza del Destino ("The Force of Destiny") or Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, or in Macbeth's uncannily-derived knowledge of his own destiny, which in spite of all his actions does not preclude a horrible fate.
Other notable examples include Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'urbervilles, in which Tess is destined to the miserable death that she is confronted with at the end of the novel; the popular short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs; and the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs. Destiny is a recurring theme in the literature of Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), including Siddhartha (1922) and his magnum opus, Das Glasperlenspiel also published as The Glass Bead Game (1943).The common theme of these works is a protagonist who cannot escape a destiny if their fate has been sealed, however hard they try. Destiny is also an important plot point in the hit TV shows Lost and Supernatural, as well a common theme in the Roswell TV series.

Divination of destiny

Some believe that one's destiny may be ascertained by divination. In the belief systems of many cultures, one's destiny can only be learned about through a shaman, babalawo, prophet, sibyl, saint or seer. In the Shang dynasty in China, turtle bones were thrown ages before the I Ching was codified. Arrows were tossed to read destiny, from Thrace to pagan Mecca. In Yoruba traditional religion, the Ifá oracle is consulted via a string of sixteen cowries or oil-palm nuts whose pattern when thrown on to a wooden tray represents the 256 possible combinations whose named "chapters" are recited and verses interpreted for the client by the babalawo. The Ifa Divination system was added in 2005 to the UNESCO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
On a trivial level, there have been multifarious methods for European maidens to detect in advance the husband for whom they were fated.

Destiny versus fate

Although the words are used interchangeably in many cases, fate and destiny can be distinguished. Modern usage defines fate as a power or agency that predetermines and orders the course of events. Fate defines events as ordered or "inevitable". Fate is used in regard to the finality of events as they have worked themselves out; and that same sense of finality, projected into the future to become the inevitability of events as they will work themselves out, is Destiny. In classical and European mythology, there are three goddesses dispensing fate, The "Fates" known as Moirae in Greek mythology, as Parcae in Roman mythology, and Norns in Norse mythology; they determine the events of the world through the mystic spinning of threads that represent individual human destinies.
One word derivative of "fate" is "fatality", another "fatalism". Fate implies no choice, and ends fatally, with a death. Fate is an outcome determined by an outside agency acting upon a person or entity; but with destiny the entity is participating in achieving an outcome that is directly related to itself. Participation happens willfully.
Used in the past tense, "destiny" and "fate" are both more interchangeable, both imply "one's lot" or fortunes, and include the sum of events leading up to a currently achieved outcome (e.g. "it was her destiny to be leader" and "it was her fate to be leader").
Fate can involve things which are bound within and subject to larger networks. A set of mathematical functions arranged in a grid and interacting in defined ways is Fatelike. Likewise the individual statues in a larger work of counterpoint art are aesthetically Fated within the work. In each case Fate is external to every individual component, but integral to the network. Every component acts as Fate for every other component. The entire world can be seen as existing within such a network, a kind of mythical spiderweb controlled by unseen forces.
Fortune and Destiny (Gad (deity) and Meni) appear as gods in Bible verse |Isaiah|65:11.

Destiny and "Fortune"

In Hellenistic civilization, the chaotic and unforeseeable turns of chance gave increasing prominence to a previously less notable goddess, Tyche, who embodied the good fortune of a city and all whose lives depended on its security and prosperity, two good qualities of life that appeared to be out of human reach. The Roman image of Fortuna, with the wheel she blindly turned was retained by Christian writers, revived strongly in the Renaissance and survives in some forms today.

Destiny and Kismet

Main article Predestination in Islam
The word kismet (alt., rarely, kismat) derives from the Arabic word qismah, and entered the English language via the Turkish word kısmet, meaning either "the will\save Allah" or "portion, lot or fate". In English, the word is synonymous with fate or destiny.


  • Cornelius, Geoffrey, C. (1994). "The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination", Penguin Group, part of Arkana Contemporary Astrology series.

External links

destiny in Catalan: Destí
destiny in German: Schicksal
destiny in Spanish: Destino
destiny in French: Destin
destiny in Indonesian: Takdir
destiny in Italian: Destino
destiny in Hebrew: גורל
destiny in Malay (macrolanguage): Matlamat
destiny in Norwegian: Skjebne
destiny in Polish: Przeznaczenie
destiny in Portuguese: Destino
destiny in Albanian: Fati
destiny in Finnish: Kohtalo
destiny in Slovak: Osud
destiny in Swedish: Öde
destiny in Tagalog: Kapalaran
destiny in Turkish: Kader
destiny in Chinese: 命運

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Friday, Friday the thirteenth, Heaven, Paradise, Z, a better place, accidentality, actuarial calculation, adventitiousness, afterlife, afterworld, allotment, allowance, apodosis, appointed lot, astral influences, astrology, big end, bigger half, bit, bite, book of fate, break, budget, casualness, catastrophe, ceasing, cessation, chance, chunk, circumstance, coda, commission, conclusion, constellation, consummation, contingent, crack of doom, culmination, cup, curtain, curtains, cut, deal, death, decease, denouement, design, destination, dies funestis, dividend, dole, doom, effect, end, end point, ending, envoi, epilogue, equal share, eschatology, eternal home, expiration, fatality, fate, final solution, final twitch, final words, finale, finality, finis, finish, flukiness, foredoom, fortuitousness, fortuity, fortune, future, future state, gamble, goal, good fortune, good luck, half, halver, hap, happenstance, happy chance, heedless hap, helping, home, how they fall, ides of March, indeterminacy, indeterminateness, inevitability, intent, intention, interest, izzard, karma, kismet, last, last breath, last gasp, last things, last trumpet, last words, latter end, law of averages, life after death, life to come, lot, luck, measure, meed, mess, modicum, moiety, moira, next world, objective, omega, opportunity, otherworld, part, payoff, percentage, period, peroration, piece, planets, portion, postexistence, principle of indeterminacy, probability, problematicness, proportion, quantum, quietus, quota, rake-off, random sample, ration, resolution, resting place, risk, run of luck, segment, serendipity, share, slice, small share, stake, stars, statistical probability, stock, stoppage, stopping place, swan song, term, terminal, termination, terminus, the beyond, the breaks, the good hereafter, the grave, the great beyond, the great hereafter, the hereafter, the unknown, theory of probability, uncertainty, uncertainty principle, unlucky day, weird, what bodes, what is fated, whatever comes, wheel of fortune, will of Heaven, windup, world to come
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