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 itit 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 That mission will be called Artemis 1 and will happen in 2021 if all goes well. Lee Roop | Lroop@al.com, al, "Watch NASA squeeze an SLS fuel tank until it explodes in final Alabama test," 27 June 2020 Team officials are confident that will happen in time to open camp in the next week, but a city of Stockton spokesperson said discussions are still in the early stages. Susan Slusser, SFChronicle.com, "5 questions for A’s camp: Stockton as taxi site? Surprise player headed there," 26 June 2020 Of course, the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game doesn’t mean any of these things will happen. Dan Labbe, cleveland, "What does the canceled Hall of Fame Game mean for the NFL preseason?," 26 June 2020 Uncertainty remains as to where, when and if that will happen. Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Severe storms forecast for much of Wisconsin, including Milwaukee area, during afternoon, evening," 26 June 2020 The modeling is not a predictor of what will happen and instead is used for planning purposes. oregonlive, "Oregon coronavirus modeling shows ‘exponential growth’ in future infections," 26 June 2020 But on Thursday, Mr. Whelan’s twin brother David said that won’t happen. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "American Ex-Marine Convicted in Russia Won’t Appeal Sentence," 25 June 2020 What will happen to India’s wedding industry after lockdown? Maria Aspan, Fortune, "Sallie Krawcheck’s startup pivots beyond investing," 25 June 2020 After announcing last week that Fancy Farm 2020 will still go on in Western Kentucky despite the coronavirus pandemic, organizers of the annual picnic now say the political speeches will not happen. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky's Fancy Farm picnic won't feature political speeches this year," 25 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for happen

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for happen

Last Updated

30 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for happen


How to pronounce happen (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for happen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with happen

Spanish Central: Translation of happen

Nglish: Translation of happen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of happen for Arabic Speakers

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