hap·pen | \ ˈha-pən , -pᵊm \
happened; happening\ˈhap-niŋ, 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

There was no way this list was going to happen without at least two Ebert reviews. Sara Benincasa, Longreads, "Great Reviews Of Movies I Have Never Seen: A Reading List," 13 July 2018 Yes, that really happened, in the Year of our Lord 2018. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Model Salem Mitchell Is Sick of Black Women's Hairstyles Being Labeled "Ghetto"," 13 July 2018 Pfleger's church, Saint Sabina, happens to be located in that TIF district. Ben Joravsky, Chicago Reader, "News / Politics / Poverty / Race Father Pfleger, top cop Johnson, and a tinge of hope for the city’s future," 13 July 2018 Most people think, well, if Cruz had been Baker acted that this wouldn’t have happened. David Fleshler, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Stoneman Douglas investigators criticize Florida's limitations in treating mentally ill," 12 July 2018 Mistakes that can be made on paper forms — missing a number on a zip code, skipping a field — can’t happen with the online form. Jonathan Lai, Philly.com, "Online voter registration in Pa., three years in: More than 1 in 5 voters register online," 12 July 2018 All Poway needed was a top six finish to advance and that happened despite losing to eventual tournament runner-up, 4S Ranch. Terry Monahan, Pomerado News, "Poway softball team heads to Western Nationals," 12 July 2018 It's happened to many others before him and now Shawn Mendes is the latest performer to fall on stage during one of his concerts. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Shawn Mendes Fell Down on Stage During a Concert and Fans Are Freaking Out," 10 July 2018 If that could ever happen here in Boston, that would be a big incentive,’’ says Sirkin. Don Aucoin, BostonGlobe.com, "A comeback role for Boston theaters?," 14 July 2018

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

17 Sep 2018

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 \
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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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).


the setting in which something occurs

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