1. an apple or other fruit that has fallen from a tree
2. an amount of money that you get when you are not expecting it
Origin and usage
The noun windfall comes from the nouns ‘wind’ and ‘fall’. It has been used in English since the 15th century, originally to mean fallen branches.
Windfalls are pieces of fruit that fall to the ground rather than being picked. A windfall is also an amount of money that you get when you are not expecting it, especially a large amount; it falls into your lap just as a windfall falls to the ground. More generally, a windfall can be a large amount of anything that arrives unexpectedly and all together; the example in Macmillan Dictionary refers to a large number of planets all discovered at around the same time. A windfall tax is an extra or one-off tax that a government imposes on companies that have unexpectedly made a large amount of money in a short time; an example would be privatized utilities such as gas, electricy or water companies that made bigger than expected profits following privatization.
“We gathered blackberries and sloes from the hedges and collected windfall apples from the neighbouring orchard.”
“If interest rates fall, there will be another housing boom and those who own houses will reap an unearned windfall when they eventually sell.”