# Probability vs. Chance: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on September 18, 2023
Probability is a mathematical measure of the likelihood of an event occurring, often expressed as a ratio or percentage. Chance is a more general term that refers to the occurrence of random events without the precise quantification that probability offer

## Key Differences

Probability is a concept rooted in mathematics and statistics that quantifies the likelihood of a particular event happening. It is often expressed as a fraction, decimal, or percentage. Chance, on the other hand, is a more colloquial term that refers to the possibility of something happening but doesn't necessarily involve a quantifiable measure. Probability is about precision, whereas chance is more about a general sense of likelihood.
In daily language, people might use "chance" and "probability" interchangeably, but they carry different connotations. When someone talks about the probability of rain, they might refer to a specific percentage given by a weather forecast. When speaking about the chance of rain, the language is generally less precise and might involve terms like "likely" or "unlikely."
From a grammatical standpoint, "probability" is a countable noun, often used with modifiers like "high" or "low" to indicate the level of likelihood. "Chance" can be both a countable and uncountable noun, and it can also function as a verb, as in "to chance upon something." Both words can be used as nouns to describe the concept of likelihood, but their usage varies based on context and the degree of specificity involved.
In terms of their origins, "probability" comes from the Latin word "probabilitas," which means "provable," emphasizing its roots in mathematical proof. "Chance," however, comes from the Latin word "cadentia," meaning "falling," as in the fall of dice, underscoring its roots in randomness and unpredictability. While both terms deal with the likelihood of events, probability involves a degree of mathematical rigor that chance typically does not.

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

Mathematical measure of likelihood
General term for likelihood

### Grammatical Category

Countable Noun
Countable and Uncountable Noun, Verb

High
Low

High, low, zero
Good, slim, fat

### Origin

Latin "probabilitas"

## Probability and Chance Definitions

#### Probability

The measure of the likelihood of an event occurring.
The probability of rolling a six on a die is 1/6.

#### Chance

The occurrence of events in the absence of any obvious design or cause.
He met her by chance in a bookstore.

#### Probability

A quantifiable assessment of risk.
The probability of a hurricane hitting the coast is increasing.

#### Chance

A possibility or likelihood of something happening.
There's a good chance of rain today.

#### Probability

A statistical metric expressed as a ratio, fraction, or percentage.
The probability of winning the lottery is extremely low.

#### Chance

An opportunity to do something.

#### Probability

A mathematical calculation involving outcomes and sample spaces.
In a deck of cards, the probability of drawing an Ace is 4/52.

#### Chance

The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause.

#### Probability

The quality or condition of being probable; likelihood.

#### Chance

A force assumed to cause events that cannot be foreseen or controlled; luck
Chance will determine the outcome.

#### Probability

A probable situation, condition, or event
Her election is a clear probability.

#### Chance

Often chances The likelihood of something happening; possibility or probability
Chances are good that you will win. Is there any chance of rain?.

#### Probability

The likelihood that a given event will occur
Little probability of rain tonight.

#### Chance

An accidental or unpredictable event
"He sprang to his feet and turned to run. At the same moment by a lucky chance the moon broke through the clouds" (Arthur Conan Doyle).

#### Probability

(Statistics) A number, ranging from zero to one, expressing either the projected likelihood that a specific event will occur or the observed ratio of the number of actual occurrences to the number of possible occurrences.

#### Chance

A favorable set of circumstances; an opportunity
A chance to escape.

#### Probability

The state of being probable; likelihood.

#### Chance

A risk or hazard; a gamble
Took a chance that the ice would hold me.

#### Probability

An event that is likely to occur.

#### Chance

(Games) A raffle or lottery ticket.

#### Probability

The relative likelihood of an event happening.

#### Chance

(Baseball) An opportunity to make a putout or an assist that counts as an error if unsuccessful.

#### Probability

(mathematics) A number, between 0 and 1, expressing the precise likelihood of an event happening.
The probability of an event A occurring is denoted P(A).

#### Chance

Caused by or ascribable to chance; unexpected, random, or casual
A chance encounter.
A chance result.

#### Probability

The quality or state of being probable; appearance of reality or truth; reasonable ground of presumption; likelihood.
Probability is the appearance of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas, by the intervention of proofs whose connection is not constant, but appears for the most part to be so.

#### Chance

To take the risk or hazard of
We thought we could jump over the puddle, but we were not willing to chance it.

#### Probability

That which is or appears probable; anything that has the appearance of reality or truth.
The whole life of man is a perpetual comparison of evidence and balancing of probabilities.
We do not call for evidence till antecedent probabilities fail.

#### Chance

To have the fortune (to be or do something); happen
"My eye chanced to fall on the wizened houseplant on the windowsill" (Elisabeth Brink).

#### Probability

A measure of how likely it is that some event will occur;
What is the probability of rain?
We have a good chance of winning

#### Chance

Used with the impersonal subject it and a following clause or infinitive to indicate the occurrence of a usually unexpected or chance event
"Now it chanced that this car-line was owned by gentlemen who were trying to make money" (Upton Sinclair).

#### Probability

The quality of being probable

#### Chance

(countable) An opportunity or possibility.
We had the chance to meet the president last week.

#### Probability

The degree of certainty that a particular event will occur.
The probability of rain tomorrow is 90%.

#### Chance

(uncountable) Random occurrence; luck.
Why leave it to chance when a few simple steps will secure the desired outcome?

#### Chance

(countable) The probability of something happening.
There is a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow.

#### Chance

(in plural as chances) probability; possibility.

#### Chance

What befalls or happens to a person; their lot or fate.

#### Chance

Happening by chance, casual.

#### Chance

(obsolete) Perchance; perhaps.

#### Chance

To happen by chance, to occur.
It chanced that I found a solution the very next day.

#### Chance

To befall; to happen to.

#### Chance

To try or risk.
Shall we carry the umbrella, or chance a rainstorm?

#### Chance

To discover something by chance.
He chanced upon a kindly stranger who showed him the way.

#### Chance

(Belize) To rob, cheat or swindle someone.
The car broke down a week after I bought it. I was chanced by that fast-talking salesman.

#### Chance

A supposed material or psychical agent or mode of activity other than a force, law, or purpose; fortune; fate; - in this sense often personified.
It is strictly and philosophically true in nature and reason that there is no such thing as chance or accident; it being evident that these words do not signify anything really existing, anything that is truly an agent or the cause of any event; but they signify merely men's ignorance of the real and immediate cause.
Any society into which chance might throw him.
That powerWhich erring men call Chance.

#### Chance

The operation or activity of such agent.
By chance a priest came down that way.

#### Chance

The supposed effect of such an agent; something that befalls, as the result of unknown or unconsidered forces; the issue of uncertain conditions; an event not calculated upon; an unexpected occurrence; a happening; accident; fortuity; casualty.
In the field of observation, chance favors only the mind that is prepared.
It was a chance that happened to us.
The Knave of Diamonds tries his wily arts,And wins (O shameful chance!) the Queen of Hearts.
I spake of most disastrous chance.

#### Chance

A possibility; a likelihood; an opportunity; - with reference to a doubtful result; as, a chance to escape; a chance for life; the chances are all against him.
So weary with disasters, tugged with fortune.That I would get my life on any chance,To mend it, or be rid on 't

Probability.

#### Chance

To happen, come, or arrive, without design or expectation.
If a bird's nest chance to be before thee.
I chanced on this letter.
How chance, thou art returned so soon?

#### Chance

To take the chances of; to venture upon; - usually with it as object.
Come what will, I will chance it.

#### Chance

To befall; to happen to.

#### Chance

Happening by chance; casual.

#### Chance

By chance; perchance.

#### Chance

A possibility due to a favorable combination of circumstances;
The holiday gave us the opportunity to visit Washington

#### Chance

An unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another;
We ran into each other by pure chance

#### Chance

A risk involving danger;
You take a chance when you let her drive

#### Chance

A measure of how likely it is that some event will occur;
What is the probability of rain?
We have a good chance of winning

#### Chance

Be the case by chance;
I chanced to meet my old friend in the street

#### Chance

Take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome;
When you buy these stocks you are gambling

#### Chance

Come upon, as if by accident; meet with;
We find this idea in Plato
I happened upon the most wonderful bakery not very far from here
She chanced upon an interesting book in the bookstore the other day

#### Chance

Occurring or appearing or singled out by chance;
Their accidental meeting led to a renewal of their friendship
Seek help from casual passers-by
A casual meeting
A chance occurrence

#### Chance

A risk or gamble.
He took a chance on a new investment.

#### Chance

Randomness or unpredictability.
The outcome was left to chance.

## FAQs

#### What is Chance?

Chance is the general term for the likelihood or possibility of an event.

#### What is Probability?

Probability is a mathematical measure of the likelihood of an event.

#### Is Probability More Precise Than Chance?

Yes, probability is often expressed as a ratio, fraction, or percentage.

#### Can Chance Be a Verb?

Yes, "to chance upon" means to find or discover something by accident.

#### Do Probability and Chance Mean the Same Thing?

They are similar but not synonymous; probability is more precise.

#### Can Chance Be Quantified?

Chance can sometimes be quantified but is generally less precise than probability.

#### What Fields Use Probability?

Probability is used in mathematics, statistics, finance, science, and more.

#### How Do You Calculate Probability?

Probability is calculated as favorable outcomes divided by total possible outcomes.

#### Can You "Take a Probability"?

The phrase is usually "take a chance," meaning to risk or try something.

#### What's the Origin of the Word Probability?

It comes from the Latin word "probabilitas," meaning provable.

#### What's the Origin of the Word Chance?

It comes from the Latin word "cadentia," meaning falling.

#### Is Probability Always Expressed as a Percentage?

No, probability can be expressed as a ratio, fraction, or decimal as well.

#### Is Chance Always About Randomness?

Chance often involves randomness but can also refer to opportunities or risks.

#### Is Chance Used in Poetry and Literature?

Yes, chance is often used to convey randomness, fate, or opportunity in artistic expressions.

#### Is Probability Used in Everyday Language?

Yes, but it's often used in a more formal or scientific context.