Adventure Defined (HUM303)

adventure, n.


Brit. /ədˈvɛn(t)ʃə/ , U.S. /ədˈvɛn(t)ʃər/

Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman aventur, aventour, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French aventure, also (with remodelling after the Latin etymon) adventure (French aventure ) destiny, fate (11th cent.), chance event, accident (end of the 11th cent.), chance, fortune, luck (beginning of the 12th cent.), adventurous activity, especially as undertaken by knights (late 12th cent.), risk, peril (c1170), military expedition (15th cent.), in Anglo-Norman also marvel, wonder (last quarter of the 12th cent.), mishap, misfortune (late 12th cent.; end of the 13th cent. or earlier in specific sense ‘death of a person by accident’ (compare misadventure n. 2)) < an unattested post-classical Latin form *adventura , use as noun (reinterpreted as feminine singular) of classical Latin adventūra , neuter plural of future participle of advenīre to happen (see advene v.); compare post-classical Latin adventura (also aventura ) casual profit, lost or wrecked goods, jousting (from 13th cent. in British and continental sources), risk (in trading) (from 13th cent. in British sources), accidental death (from 14th cent. in British sources), which shows a later formation modelled on the forms in various vernacular languages.

Compare (in some cases via French) Old Occitan aventura (beginning of the 12th cent.), Catalan aventura (14th cent.), Spanish aventura (1206), Portuguese aventura (13th cent.), Italian avventura (13th cent.); also (all chiefly in sense ‘adventure story’, ‘story dealing with the exploits of brave knights’ in early use) Middle Dutch aventuer (Dutch †aventuer , now (with folk-etymological alteration after avond evening: see even n.) avontuur ), Middle Low German āventǖr , Middle High German āventiure (German (with folk-etymological alteration after Abend evening: see even n.) Abenteuer ; in early modern German also (with various other folk-etymological alterations) affentheuer , ebentheuer , etc.), and also ( < Middle Low German) Old Icelandic æfintýr , Old Swedish ävintyr (Swedish äventyr ), Old Danish æwenthyr (Danish eventyr ). Compare venture n.


 a. A chance occurrence or event, an accident. Obs.

In later use sometimes difficult to distinguish from sense 4b.

?c1225  (1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. (1972) 252   Swich auenture bitimeð to summon, þet he ne mei naut fulliche wreien him seoluen bute he wreiȝe oðre.

c1275   Kentish Serm. in J. Hall Select. Early Middle Eng. (1920) I. 217   So, iuel auenture, þet wyn failede at þise bredale.

c1330   King of Tars (Auch.) l. 1026 in Englische Studien (1889) 11 57   Þer was ioie & mirþe al so To here hem speken of wele & wo, Her auentours [c1390 Vernon auntres] als þai were.

c1405  (1385)    Chaucer Knight’s Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 1862   Ther was no disconfiture For fallyng nys nat but an auenture.

1551   R. Robinson tr. T. More Vtopia sig. Pviv,   Them that watche in harneis before the trenche for sodeyne auentures.

1596   J. Dalrymple tr. J. Leslie Hist. Scotl. (1888) I. 145   Throuch quhilke experiens..thay mycht be maid..the abiller to al auentouris.

1637   T. Manley Cowell’s Interpreter sig. G3v,   Aventure, is a mischance, causing the death of a man without Felonie: as when he is suddenly drowned, or burnt, by any sudden disease falling into the water or fire.

1663   S. Butler Hudibras: First Pt. i. i. 48   For they a sad Adventure met.

1726   Swift Gulliver II. iii. i. 11,   I was ready to entertain a Hope, that this Adventure might some way or other help to deliver me.

1794   W. Godwin Caleb Williams III. iv. 68   The state of calamity to which my..persecutor had reduced me, had made the encounter even of a den of robbers a..fortunate adventure.

 b. Chance, fortune, luck. Obs.

In quot. c1325   in pl.: a person’s fortunes.

c1325  (1300)    Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) l. 826   He sende þe quene..word wuch is aunters [v.r. antres; B. auenturus, auenturys] were.

c1330  (1300)    Guy of Warwick (Auch.) 5236   To þe Lombardes bifel iuel auentour.

a1450  (1410)    H. Lovelich Hist. Holy Grail xxxviii. l. 109   Go As Aventure wil the lede.

1587   Sir P. Sidney & A. Golding tr. P. de Mornay Trewnesse Christian Relig. i. 5   As for aduenture or chaunce, it is nothing els but disorder and confusion.

1700   Dryden Flower & Leaf in Fables 405   She smil’d with sober Chear, And wish’d me fair Adventure for the Year.

1806   J. W. Croker Amazoniad ii. iii. 36,   I wish thee fair companion for the night; And fair adventure, till the morning beams.

†2. An extraordinary thing or event; a wonder, a marvel. Obs.

c1300  (1225)    King Horn (Cambr.) (1901) l. 650   Heo ferde in to bure To sen auenture.

c1400  (1380)    Cleanness (Nero) (1920) l. 1600   To open vch a hide þyng of aunteres vncowþe.

c1440  (1400)    Awntyrs Arthure (Thornton) 1   In Kyng Arthure tyme ane awntir by-tyde.

c1540  (1400)    Gest Historiale Destr. Troy 153   In a cuntre was cald Colchos..Was as [read an] aunter in a nyle þat I nem shall.


 a. Chance of danger or loss; risk, jeopardy, peril. Freq. in to put in adventure (and variants) : to put in jeopardy, to risk, to stake. Now only in sense 3b.

c1300   St. Francis (Laud) l. 186 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 59   He was a-drad..netheles on aunture he him dude.

a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) ii. l. 3297   Alle othre leches he forsok, And put him out of aventure Al only into goddes cure.

1418   in R. W. Chambers & M. Daunt Bk. London Eng. (1931) 197   The wardeyns schull nought..leue the comun good bot at her owen aventur.

1489  (1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (Adv.) i. 606   He wes in full gret auentur To tyne his lyff.

a1500  (1414)    Paraphr. Seven Penitential Psalms 42   Thi lyif thou potyst in aventure.

a1525   G. Myll Spectakle of Luf in W. A. Craigie Asloan MS (1923) I. 285   He maid the be put in a veschell allane to the aduentur of the see.

1598   B. Yong tr. J. de Montemayor Diana 141   For my sake to put thy life in aduenture.

1622   J. Mabbe tr. M. Alemán Rogue i. 129   The aduenture I saw was small, and the gaine might be great.

1677   R. Ferguson East-India-trade 16   Many lost of their principal Stocks, besides about two years Interest, and the risk and adventure of the Seas.

 b. In marine insurance: the risk or peril insured against; the period during which a ship, cargo, etc., is considered to be at risk.

1678   J. Vernon Compleat Comptinghouse 145   Beginning the Adventure upon the said Goods and Merchandize from and immediately following the loading thereof aboard the said Ship.

1795   Act 35 Geo. III c. 63 §11,   The particular Risque or Adventure insured against, together with the Names of the Subscribers,..shall be respectively expressed or specified in or upon such Policy.

1814   G. Maule & W. Selwyn Rep. Cases King’s Bench 1 41   This was a licence not for an unnamed adventure or an indefinite cargo, but for a voyage declared out and home.

1883   J. P. Aspinall Rep. Cases Maritime Law 4 483/1   Beginning the adventure upon the said Goods, Freight, and Merchandizes, from the loading thereof aboard the said Ship.

1906   Marine Insurance Act (6 Edw. VII) c. 41 §1 in Public Gen. Statutes 44 216   A contract of marine insurance is a contract whereby the insurer undertakes to indemnify the assured..against marine losses, that is to say, the losses incident to marine adventure.

2005   I. Dear & P. Kemp Oxf. Compan. Ships & Sea (ed. 2) 5/1   Adventure,..Nowadays in marine insurance it is the period during which something is exposed to peril whether insured or not.


 a. A course of action which invites risk; a perilous or audacious undertaking the outcome of which is unknown; a daring feat or exploit. Later also in weakened use.

In later use sometimes difficult to distinguish from sense 4b.

c1300   St. John Evangelist (Laud) l. 509 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 417   A knyȝht of Enguelonde..was bi-ȝeonde se, Auntres for-to fonde.

c1440  (1400)    Morte Arthure l. 1905   Theis honourable knyghttez, Be an awntere of armes, Ioneke has nommen.

1582   R. Stanyhurst tr. Virgil First Foure Bookes Æneis ii. 44   Throgh surgye waters with mee too seek ther auenturs.

1617   Sir L. Cranfeilde in Fortesc. Pap. 42   My many and dangerous adventures in his Majesties service.

1697   Dryden Ded. Æneis in tr. Virgil Wks. sig. d2v,   What remain’d for him, but, without delay, to pursue his first Adventure?

1783   J. Hoole tr. Ariosto Orlando Furioso II. 115   Mandricardo then prepared to pursue the adventure and root up the tree that had a thousand branches.

1867   C. H. Pearson Hist. Eng. I. 22   Caesar’s sudden invasion of Britain..must be ascribed to mixed motives. The romance of a brilliant adventure was probably the chief of these.

1898   W. H. Seibert Underground Railroad vi. 163   Thus was Brown led to undertake one of his boldest adventures.

1917   Fortn. Rev. Aug. 178   In his instructions to junior flag officers and captains he warned them against entering into rash adventures.

1958   Pop. Mech. May 201   These names will further thrill and encourage boys in their great new adventure into the sciences.

2010   Herald Sun (Australia) (Nexis) 10 Mar. 60   The International Space Station is..the largest adventure into space to date.

 b. A remarkable or unexpected event, or series of events, in which a person participates as a result of chance; a novel or exciting experience.

Sometimes with implication that such experiences are intentionally invited or sought: cf. sense 4a.

1474   Caxton tr. Game & Playe of Chesse (1883) iii. vi. 134   Many paryls and aduentures may happen on the wayes and passages to hem that ben herberowed with in their Innes.

a1568   R. Ascham Scholemaster (1570) i. 19   Experience of all facions in a ouermoch knowledge, yet used commonlie of soch hasard the triall of ouer manie perilous aduentures.

1678   C. V. tr. J. Barrin Monk Unvail’d 82,   I will make you laugh at an adventure, which befel a friend of mine at Lyons.

1716   Lady M. W. Montagu Let. 20 Sept. (1965) I. 271   One of the pleasantest adventures I ever met in my life.

1781   Gibbon Decline & Fall (1787) III. xxxi. 227   He experienced the adventures of an obscure and wandering life.

1838   J. H. Ingraham Burton II. xvi. 248   A pretty brush with some of these rebels in the street were a pleasant adventure.

1853   C. Brontë Villette I. vi. 88   To walk alone in London seemed of itself an adventure.

1911   J. M. Barrie Peter Pan viii. 115   To die will be an awfully big adventure.

1944   E. Blyton Five run away Together xvi. 139   ‘Go back! Leave an adventure just when it’s beginning!’ said George, scornfully. ‘How silly you are, Anne.’

2009   New Yorker 20 Apr. 44/2   Exhilarating adventures in the Northeast include canyoning and caving in Meghalaya, where the intrepid traverse ‘living bridges’ woven of tree roots.

 c. In a role-playing game (in later use freq. on a computer): a single continuous interactive story or narrative in which a player or players participate, usually with the aim of achieving a specific goal. Also = role-playing game n. at role-playing n. Compounds 2. Freq. attrib. (see Compounds 1c).

1976   Washington Post 9 Aug. b1/4   The players choose a Tolkienic character at the beginning of the game and become that character for the duration of the adventure.

1982   J. Butterfield et al. What is Dungeons & Dragons? 174   Adventure, the actions taken by the characters and the events which happen to them between setting out on an expedition and returning from it.

1984   Which Micro? Dec. 76/3   You can dispense with graphics altogether by pressing ‘N’ when the adventure is loaded.

1990   Dragon Mag. Mar. 82/3   While there is nothing inherently wrong with this adventure, it didn’t grab me as much as the adventures previously reviewed.

1997   T3 Feb. 45/2   A storyboard is of less use in a complicated 3D beat ’em up, but a strategy game, adventure or platformer can benefit from this frame-by-frame approach.

2001   Canberra Times (Nexis) 13 Aug. a17   The Diabolo games are traditional role-playing adventures designed for fans of Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy games.

 5. Adventurous activity; the action or fact of seeking or encountering risks; participation in perilous, remarkable, or exciting events or experiences.

c1400  (1380)    Pearl (Nero) 64   My goste is gon..In auenture þer meruaylez meuen.

1551   J. Bale Actes Eng. Votaryes ii. f. xxxixv,   Osmundus was a man of great aduenture & polycye in hys tyme.

1603   R. Knolles Gen. Hist. Turkes 1228   So the assault was begun with great furie and aduenture.

1612   T. Heywood Apol. for Actors sig. A8v,   Some Citizens, some Soldiers, borne to aduenter..; then our play’s begun, the world first enter.

1737   J. Ozell Urquhart’s Rabelais III. iii. ix. 50   It were much better for me to remain a Bachelor as I am, than to run headlong upon new hair-brain’d Undertakings of conjugal Adventure.

1796   H. L. Piozzi Diary Nov. in K. C. Balderston Thraliana (1942) II. 969   We want more Pepper than this Author gives..his Adventures have in them too little of Adventure.

1825   Br. Jonathan I. 382,   I felt a yearning after adventure.

1863   J. H. Burton Bk.-hunter 87   The auction room..calls forth courage, promptness, and the spirit of adventure.

1927   V. Woolf To Lighthouse xvii. 153   He, bound for adventure; she, moored to the shore.

2010   Frommer’s Costa Rica 2010 88   Costa Rica is a major adventure-tourism destination. The following basic itinerary packs a lot of adventure into a single week.

†6. Any undertaking the outcome of which is uncertain; an experiment; a test of luck. Obs.

to take one’s adventure : to take one’s chances, try one’s luck; also to give the adventure .

c1405  (1385)    Chaucer Knight’s Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 328   Heere in this prisoun moote we endure And euerich of vs take his auenture.

c1425   Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) i. l. 336   He moste passe and manly it endure, And, how so falle, take his auenture.

a1500  (1460)    Towneley Plays (1994) I. xx. 250   Wold ye all assent to me..And till oure awnter stand ilkon.

c1540  (1400)    Gest Historiale Destr. Troy 827,   I wold boune me to batell and take my bare aunter, Yon worthy wethir to wyn.

1607   E. Topsell Hist. Fovre-footed Beastes 192   Whereupon, Patroclus [sc. an elephant] gaue the aduenture, and passed ouer safely.

1673   R. Allestree Ladies Calling ii. iii. xv. 89   Marriage is so great an adventure, that once seems enough for the whole life.

1789   J. Reynolds Disc. Royal Acad. 17   When we adapt the character of the landskip..This is a very difficult adventure.


  a. A financial risk or venture; a commercial enterprise; a speculation. Also as a mass noun: the action or fact of pursuing such an undertaking.

Naut.: a venture in which cargo is sent abroad without fixed destination to be sold or bartered by the ship’s master at the best opportunity (now rare).

1548   in D. W. Prowse Hist. Newfoundland (1895) 53   Such Merchants and Fishermen as have used and practised the Adventures and Journeys into Iseland, Newfoundland, Ireland, and other Places.

1585   R. Grenville Let. 25 Oct. in Cal. State Papers Colonial Ser. 1 4,   I am gladde that my happe is to yealde yor honor the retorne of yor adventure.

1625   Bacon Ess. (new ed.) xxxiv. 210   He that puts all vpon Aduentures, doth often times brake, and come to Pouerty.

1683   J. Evelyn Mem. (1857) II. 179,   I sold my East India adventure of £250 principal for £750.

1708   W. Saunders Ess. establishing Fishery 4   Ten Thousand Pounds adventure in the Fishery, employs more People than fifty Thousand Pound in any other Trade.

1791   J. Smeaton Narr. Edystone Lighthouse §197   A quantity of it [sc. Puzzolana]..had been imported as an adventure from Civita Vecchia.

1832   G. C. Lewis Use & Abuse Polit. Terms iii. 33   Employing his capital or labour in adventures only compatible with the existence of the law.

1846   J. Lindridge Tales of Shipwrecks 403/2   Captain Riley had shipped an adventure of silk-lace veils and silk handkerchiefs.

1886   Amer. Law Reg. Feb. 151   If parties go into an adventure, one furnishing money or stock and the other skill or labor, and to share the net profits, they are partners.

1921   Amer. Jrnl. Internat. Law 15 219   He was..receiving cargoes and disposing of cargoes, giving accounts of the markets in France, and directing mercantile adventures there.

1965   Supreme Court Rev. 1965 246   The vastness and richness of the land has made wide-ranging economic adventure attractive.

2004   R. Burnett Company of Pianos v. 50   Every now and then a musician would be tempted to embark on a commercial adventure, distinct from playing or composing.

 b. A political or military venture, action, or policy, esp. one considered reckless or potentially hazardous; an instance of adventurism. As a mass noun: the action or fact of pursuing such an action or policy.

[Probably originating in the use of senses 4a   and 5   in political or military contexts; later influenced by adventurism n. 1b.]

1878   Times 25 July 9/3   During the time of the Empire no State could deem itself safe from one of the aggressive surprises which were a necessity to a Government of adventure.

1884   Times 13 May 9/6   M. Clémenceau and his friends have from the first set their faces against the Opportunist policy of adventures.

1932   H. Nicolson Public Faces i. 17   Only three months before they had ousted the Churchill Government on a charge of adventurism. And here..was a weapon of adventure such as no British Government had ever possessed before.

1957   New Statesman 18 May 630/1   Mr. Macmillan..argued..that the Suez adventure in no way influenced Egypt’s attitude to the negotiations.

1958   Listener 30 Oct. 682/2 [citing Moscow radio]   The intensification of the policy of adventure and provocation of People’s China, and the drawing up of plans for a new adventure in the Taiwan Straits area.

2006   Wilson Q. 30 103/1   Foreign adventures have no place among China’s priorities.

†8. Apparently: a coming or arrival. Obs. rare.

See note in etymology.

1623   J. Mede in H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eng. Hist. (1824) III. 162   From a delight they took in so rare an adventure of a Prince of his quality.



†a. at adventure (also adventures) : as chance directs, at random; (hence) recklessly, without due consideration or thought. Also (in quot. 1523): on the chance of something happening. Obs.

[Originally after Anglo-Norman and Middle French à l’aventure at random (13th cent. in Old French).]

Compare at a venture at venture n. 1c.

c1390   in F. J. Furnivall Minor Poems Vernon MS (1901) ii. 716   Scharpe wawes þat Schip has sayled, And sayed alle sees at auentur.

c1440  (1400)    Morte Arthure l. 2543   They..Cowpen at awntere be kraftes of armes.

1523   Ld. Berners tr. J. Froissart Cronycles I. cxcii. 228   Certayn of the garyson..rode forthe at aduenture somwhat to wyn.

1577   H. I. tr. H. Bullinger 50 Godlie Serm. I. ii. x. sig. P.ijv/1,   Some..marrie at aduentures to their owne decay, and vtter destruction.

a1681   W. Lilly Catastrophe Mundi (1683) 4   A Geomantical or Terrestrial Divination, in which from certain voluntary Pricks or Points made by the hand at Adventure, certain Figures are raised.

1742   D. Hume Ess. Moral & Polit. (ed. 2) II. ix. 141   Shall this Business be allow’d to go altogether at Adventures?

1882   Cent. Mag. Apr. 863/2   That pamphlet, bought at a railway station, perhaps, by some man who purchases at adventure, may do more to cultivate the love of beauty..than many great volumes of theology.

 b. at all adventure (also adventures) : as chance directs, at random; (hence) whatever the consequences may be, recklessly. In later use also: whatever happens, at all events, in any case. Now rare and arch.

[Compare Anglo-Norman pur tuz aventures, Middle French par toutes aventures for every eventuality (early 14th cent. or earlier in Anglo-Norman; this sense is unparalleled in continental French until later: end of the 14th cent.), Middle French, French †à toutes aventures (1534 or earlier), French †à toute aventure (1669), both in sense ‘at random’.]

1485   Caxton tr. Charles the Grete (1881) ii. iii. xiv. 193   Eche took an hors of them þat were dede, which ranne at al aduenture [Fr. Ilz..prirent chescun ung cheval de ceulx qui estoyent mors et qui alloient a leur adventure, et chescun d’eulx mist la main a lespee].

1534   R. Whittinton tr. Cicero Thre Bks. Tullyes Offyces i. sig. F.7,   We shall do nothynge folysshly and at all aduentures.

1553   T. Wilson Arte of Rhetorique 47 b,   Plaie as young boyes or scarre crowes do, whiche all aventures hittie missie.

1677   M. Hale Contempl. ii. 195   Be contented herein..and be Thankful to him at all adventures.

1690   J. Locke Ess. Humane Understanding iv. xvii. 341   The effects of Chance and Hazard, of a Mind floating at all Adventures.

1760   J. Jortin Life Erasmus II. 76   At all adventures the yoke was to be shaken off.

1837   W. Ware Lett. Lucius M. Piso II. x. 22   He has thrust his lance hither and thither at all adventures, but, as in the sports of the field, he means no injury.

1908   G. C. Lodge Herakles viii. 151   The countless unambitious multitudes Of mortal men exist at all adventure.

†P2. by (also of) adventure : by chance, by accident. Obs. Cf. peradventure adv. 2, 3.

[After Anglo-Norman and Middle French par aventure peradventure adv.]

a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) Prol. l. 619   A gret ston from an hull on hyh Fel doun, of sodein aventure, Upon the feet of this figure.

c1405  (1385)    Chaucer Knight’s Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 658   By auenture this Palamon Was in a bussh.

a1500  (1425)    tr. Secreta Secret. (Lamb.) 99   And yf it fall, by auenture, þat þe engenderours of þe engendre lere hym any craft.

1537   in C. Innes Reg. Episcopatus Aberdonensis (1845) I. 413   As may of auentour happyne.

1675   T. Hobbes tr. Homer Odysses 210   A chopping-board was near him by adventure.

1702   in H. Adamson Muses Threnodie (1774) App. 46   The burgesses of Dundee has good right to buy any ship coming by adventure within the water of Tay.

1879   Nature 23 Oct. 618/2   Man..does sometimes see by adventure, as it were, the whole law fulfilled without his studying for it or expecting it.

†P3. in (also for, on, upon) adventure : in case, for fear. Cf. anaunter adv., anauntrins conj., enaunter conj. Obs.

Sometimes followed by if, lest, that.

[In in adventure   after Anglo-Norman and Middle French en aventure (13th cent.). With for adventure, compare Anglo-Norman par aventure lest (first half of the 12th cent. in this sense).]

a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) viii. l. 1666   That sche hire wit on him despende, In aunter if he myhte amende.

a1450   Generides (Helm.) (1865) 9142   And so thei ride on hunting For auenture of ony spiyng.

c1475   Advice to Lovers in J. O. Halliwell Select. Minor Poems J. Lydgate (1840) 45   War where thou appere, In aunter that thou tourne unto displeasaunce.

a1500   in W. Maskell Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ (1882) III. 414   Sinne no more, on aunter thow falle wors.

1520   Chron. Eng. vii. f. 84/2,   Upon auenture me sholde lyke some other bysshopryche to gyue hym.

1578   J. Rolland Seuin Seages (1932) 9126   He durst not to the Ladie ga neir: In auenture that Gwydo suld espy.

a1600  (1535)    tr. H. Boece Hist. Scotl. (1946) 411   In aventure gif the corps had on the morn bene publicate it suld schaw the slaare.

†P4. to set in adventure : to put in doubt, to cause to hang in the balance. to stand in adventure : to remain in doubt, to hang in the balance.

[Compare Anglo-Norman and Middle French mettre en aventure to put at risk (beginning of the 13th cent. or earlier; second half of the 12th cent. in sense ‘to endanger (oneself)’, used reflexively).]

a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) ii. l. 2584   That is love, whos nature Set lif and deth in aventure Of hem that knyhthode undertake.

1535   W. Stewart tr. H. Boethius Bk. Cron. Scotl. (1858) I. 85   The victorie stude lang in aventour.


C1. attrib.

 a. Designating or relating to any of various related genres of fiction or drama which depict an episodic series of hazardous or exciting situations, daring actions, etc.; esp. in adventure story. Cf. sense 4b.

1882   St. Nicholas Jan. 260/2   The finest and longest adventure-stories that were ever written.

1896   G. Saintsbury Hist. 19th Cent. Lit. vii. 337   With a touch of Bulwerian romance, something of the sporting novel, and a good deal of the adventure story, Smedley united plenty of pleasant humour.

1912   S. E. White Land of Footpr. i. 7   The adventure writer, half unconsciously perhaps, has been too much occupied in play-acting himself into half-forgotten boyhood heroics.

1940   Horizon Mar. 176   The Gem in addition to its school-story carries one or more adventure-serials.

1979   Arizona Daily Star 1 Apr. (Tucson T.V. Suppl.) 4/6   ‘Flight to Tangiers’… A 1953 adventure-drama starring Joan Fontaine and Jack Palance.

2001   C. Freeland But is it Art? iii. 63   It would be impossible to disentangle strands of influence in the spaghetti western, samurai film, Hollywood action flick, Indian adventure story, and Hong Kong cinema.


 (a) Designating or relating to an expedition (esp. a package holiday) to an exotic or remote location, freq. involving physical challenge and rough living conditions, as adventure holiday, adventure tour, adventure travel, adventure trip, etc. Cf. sense 5.

1923   Los Angeles Sunday Times 8 July vi. 6/4   This is one of the crack adventure tours of the whole Southwest.

1938   Q. Rev. Biol. 13 95/2   Essentially it is the result of long, patient, and acute observation, and not merely the record of happenings of a two-months adventure trip through uncivilized lands.

1954   Trav. Agent 25 May 26/2   We do other things besides operate student and adventure trips.

1964   Economist 11 Jan. 114/1   Fully organized ‘Adventure Holidays’—with..the organisation not reducing the adventure too much—range from pony-trekking to pot-holing.

1969   Mademoiselle Oct. 174/2   Lars Eric Lindblad, president of Lindblad Travel, one pioneer in the adventure-travel field, calls the trend ‘a reaction to the vacation ghetto’.

1991   Ideal Home June 121/1,   I spent an exhilarating day cruising the River Ord, speeding through spectacular scenery in a high-powered boat. There are adventure tours into the outback, too.

2000   Guardian (Dar es Salaam) 27 Mar. 1/5   The river is a popular adventure tourist destination.

 (b) orig. U.S. Designating a programme of (usually physically demanding) outdoor pursuits, or the location where such activities take place, as adventure camp, adventure centre , adventure training, etc. Cf. sense 5.

1925   Chicago Defender 4 Apr. ii. 11/6   Spring camp: This is the big adventure camp of the year and is rapidly growing in popularity with the older Scouts.

1940   Salt Lake Tribune 2 June d5/6   This high adventure wilderness serving as a national laboratory for testing adventure programs for older boys within the movement.

1966   Listener 13 Oct. 537/1   ‘Adventure training’ is an attractive term for being thrown in at the survival deep end.

1973   Scotsman 13 Feb. 14/1 (advt.)    Deputy warden required for adventure school on very remote sea loch, North-west Scotland… Duties largely administrative but very fit practical man with outdoor interests is required.

1980   Globe & Laurel July–Aug. 211/1   Ordnance Squadron was deployed at Leek..for a week’s adventure training, culminating in a 50 mile map march.

1991   Times Educ. Suppl. 15 Mar. 144 (advt.)    Adventure Centre, Poole. Permanent Outdoor Pursuits Instructor required immediately.

2001   M. Clarkson Developing IT Staff 140   One training method that warrants special attention is the ‘outward-bound’ adventure course to teach leadership and teamworking. These courses..have a strong outdoor element, where individuals are put into groups and given some adventurous challenge.

 c. Designating or relating to a role-playing game (in later use freq. on a computer) comprising a single continuous story or narrative in which a player or players participate, usually with the aim of achieving a specific goal, as adventure game, adventure gaming, etc. See sense 4c.

Development of this sense in a computing context is strongly associated with the early interactive computer game Adventure: see, for example, quot. 1980.

The game was created by U.S. programmer Will Crowther, and first made available in 1972 to users of the Boston University mainframe. Later modified by Don Woods, from the late 1970s the game was widely distributed via the university-based communications network ARPAnet (a precursor of the Internet).

1977   Playground Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Florida) 26 June 6 a/1   Adventure a form of escapism with rulebooks and has about 250,000 followers in the United States.

1980   Byte July 3   Here are some valuable tips on designing your own Adventure game.

1981   N.Y. Times (Nexis) 31 Dec. d2   Videodisks might also provide scenery for fantasy or adventure games, such as the ones in which players search for treasure in mysterious caverns with dozens of different rooms.

1984   InfoWorld 11 June /2   Recently, some games began requiring adventure characters to eat and sleep.

1989   Dragon Nov. 41/1 (advt.)    Each book in the series focuses on a specific type of adventure gaming.

1993   P. M. Greenfield in R. R. Cocking & K. A. Renninger Devel. & Meaning of Psychol. Distance iii. i. 181   The popular role-playing adventure games require much more complex problemsolving and strategy with less emphasis on speed.

1997   Billboard 1 Mar. 61/5   This big-budget adventure game… ‘Obsidian’ does deliver the cutting-edge graphics and addicting story line that adventure gamers demand.

2006   Focus Nov. 92/2   In this third-person adventure game, you’ll be directing a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agent through miscellaneous scrapes.


adventure playground n.  (a) a playground in which children are provided with building materials, tools, and other equipment, with which they can design and build their own structures under adult supervision;  (b) (chiefly Brit.) a playground containing objects or structures such as ropes, slides, and tunnels, encouraging physically challenging play.

1953   Lady Allen Adventure Playgrounds (Nat. Playing Fields Assoc.) 3   How does an Adventure Playground differ from the usual playground? There is no asphalt, no see-saws, swings or slides, except those created by the children themselves out of waste material freely available on the site.

1960   Times 25 Mar. 24/2   A for the children’s ‘adventure playground’.

1992   Mail on Sunday (Nexis) 5 Apr. 64   An adventure playground where children can have hours of fun on the go-kart circuit, trampolines, water-slide and assault course.

2009   Contra Costa Times (Calif.) (Nexis) 12 Aug.,   Berkeley’s award-winning Adventure Playground lets kids get grubby, painty and sweaty with its wild collection of hands-on projects and fun.

adventure school n. now hist. a school established and run as a private speculation.

1832   Rep. Comm. Schools 65   In Scotland, the number of ‘adventure schools,’ as they are there called, exceeds the number of parochial schools.

1899   A. F. Leach Hist. Winchester Coll. ii,   A ‘Boarding Academy for young Gentlemen’, which draws its pupils from all parts of the Country, and is not a Private Adventure School.

1995   Social Hist. 20 398/2   The complex and extensive history of private adventure either ignored or dismissed.

Third edition, December 2011; online version June 2012. <>; accessed 07 August 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1884.