Incident vs Incidence
There are many pairs of words in the English language that have similar meanings but are not synonymous to be used interchangeably. These words, when they also are similar sounding pose problems for the non-natives as they think of the other when the speaker has spoken another of the pair. In this article, we shall try to differentiate between incident and incidence that sound similar and also have similar meanings.
The word incident is used to refer to any event or act that is unusual or important. If you have returned from a trip to Disneyland and want to convey the impression that everything was fine except an incident that took place on a ride, you are pointing out something that not a regular event. However, it is not necessary for an event to be unsavory or unfortunate to be called an incident as people also speak of events that are associated with pleasant memories as incidents in their lives. It has to be said though that people remember incidents as they are unusual rather than being regular experiences. Thus, we remember incidents of earthquakes, violence, arson, murder etc while forgetting regular events like going or coming back from office.
The plural of incident is incidents and the manner in which it is spoken by the natives creates confusion in the minds of the listeners as they hear incidence rather than incidents. So, if the newspaper reports several incidents of firing along the border, what it means is that there were several acts of firing on the border in the past one week.
Incidence refers to the frequency of an event or act. In particular, it is customary to refer to crimes and diseases occurring in a place in terms of their incidences. If a place is notorious for traffic accidents, it is described as having a high incidence of traffic accidents. If you read a headline saying ‘The incidence of polio has gone down significantly in this African country’, it is enough to convey the impression that the rate of occurrence of polio has reduced considerably in the country.
What is the difference between Incident and Incidence?
• Incident refers to an act of importance or something that is unusual while incidence refers to the frequency of an act or an event.
• While earthquake striking a place last week is an incident, its incidence refers to the high or low number of times earthquake has hit the particular place in the last few years.
• This is the third incident of a car hitting a pedestrian in the last one month suggests the unfortunate event of pedestrian hit by speeding cars. On the other hand, the incidence of pedestrians getting hit by automobiles has gone up is a sentence that tells about the rate of occurrence of such incidents in the area.