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

Lisa arranged the cards―changing them for each episode―to give clues as to what would happen next. Alyssa Fiorentino, House Beautiful, "Did You Miss Jughead's Appearance In 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?'," 30 Oct. 2018 This political shift happened as a number of trends coalesced: more spouses had careers back home, campaigning meant participating in perpetual fundraisers, and long-distance commuting became the norm. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a point about housing for Congress," 21 Nov. 2018 Closer examination of what happened in many state and local elections reveals success on the part of grassroots organizers who’ve been working steadily year round to activate and empower the disenfranchised and oppressed. Bree Newsome, SELF, "The 2018 Midterm Elections Proved That Change Must Happen from the Ground Up," 15 Nov. 2018 In mediation, survivors convey the aftermath of whatever happened to them. Kim Tran, Teen Vogue, "Transformative Justice, Explained," 15 Nov. 2018 Maintenance logs, testimony from other pilots who’ve flown the jet, and other evidence should ultimately shed light on what happened to Flight 610. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "The FAA, Boeing Issue Alerts for 737 Max 8 Planes After Lion Air Crash," 9 Nov. 2018 Google has tweaked the lock screen messaging while charging to properly reflect what’s happening. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Google offers Pixel 3XL users free Play Store credit, promises bug fixes 'in the coming weeks'," 6 Nov. 2018 For years, the popular explanation of what happened was forced resonance: the strong wind matched the bridge's natural resonance frequency and the resulting positive feedback loop got so strong, the bridge broke apart. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "New study sheds more light on what caused Millennium Bridge to wobble," 30 Oct. 2018 Turin, who also happens to be one of the world’s leading perfume experts, was inspired by a vibrational theory of smell first proposed by chemist Malcolm Dyson in 1938. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 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

10 Dec 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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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).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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