hap·​pen | \ ˈha-pən How to pronounce happen (audio) , -pᵊm\
happened; happening\ ˈhap-​niŋ How to pronounce happening (audio) , ˈha-​pə-​ \

Definition of happen

intransitive verb

1 : to occur by chance often used with it it so happens I'm going your way
2 : to come into being or occur as an event, process, or result mistakes will happen
3 : to do, encounter, or attain something by or as if by chance I happen to know the answer
4a : to meet or discover something by chance happened upon a system that worked— Richard Corbin
b : to come or go casually : make a chance appearance he might happen by at any time
5 : to come especially by way of injury or harm I promise nothing will happen to you

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Examples of happen in a Sentence

Something like that was bound to happen sooner or later. You never know what's going to happen when they get together. What happened at school today? “What's happening?” “They're installing new equipment.”
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Recent Examples on the Web

This happens as the new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, was executing an initiative to get ahead of the violence. Fox News, "Multiple injuries in Chicago resulted when guard mistood July 4 fireworks for gunfire," 6 July 2019 That can happen as early as noon Saturday, when the NBA's moratorium period ends. Matt Goul, cleveland.com, "Kawhi Leonard signing with Los Angeles Clippers, who reportedly are trading for Paul George," 6 July 2019 July Fourth brought along a bunch of good deals on tech, and fortunately, most of them are still happening. Cameron Faulkner, The Verge, "4K TVs from LG, Vizio, and Sony dominate this week’s best deals," 6 July 2019 Racial profiling, or suspecting that someone has committed a crime because of their race, still very much happens today. Christie Marchese, refinery29.com, "When They See Us: What You Can Do About Mass Incarceration," 5 July 2019 Anthropologie Shop the summer tag sale happening now and take an extra 50% off all sale items at Anthropologie. Samantha Gordon, USA TODAY, "The best Fourth of July deals you can still get," 5 July 2019 So, a funny thing happens when Stranger Things comes on. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, "So, What Is a 'Mind Flayer,' Exactly? Decoding the Monsters of 'Stranger Things'," 5 July 2019 An even closer race was happening about 90 seconds behind Strabel and Arneson. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Oregon runner Max King gains royalty status with Mount Marathon men’s victory," 5 July 2019 The maturation of a former top prospect into a bonafide, everyday major-leaguer is happening before our very eyes. Jeff Bailey, The Denver Post, "Rockies Insider: With juiced balls opening the Coors Field floodgates, let’s unplug the humidor and really have some fun," 4 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'happen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of happen

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for happen

Middle English, from hap

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Statistics for happen

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for happen

The first known use of happen was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for happen



English Language Learners Definition of happen

: to take place especially without being planned
: to do or be something by chance
used with it to describe something that occurs by chance


hap·​pen | \ ˈha-pən How to pronounce happen (audio) \
happened; happening

Kids Definition of happen

1 : to take place Stop crying and tell me what happened.
2 : to occur or come about by chance It just so happens I know them.
3 : to do or be by chance I happened to overhear this.
4 : to come especially by way of injury or harm Nothing will happen to you.

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More from Merriam-Webster on happen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with happen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for happen

Spanish Central: Translation of happen

Nglish: Translation of happen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of happen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on happen

What made you want to look up happen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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