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

intransitive verb

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

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.”
Recent Examples on the Web When gunshots rang out, Herr and the people around him paused, trying to figure out what was happening. Faith E. Pinho, Los Angeles Times, 14 July 2024 What happened at the Trump rally today is horrible and unacceptable. Ana Rocío Álvarez Bríñez, The Courier-Journal, 14 July 2024 Here’s what happened in the Latin music world this week. Griselda Flores, Billboard, 13 July 2024 What’s happening Cevian acquired a 5.11% position in the company because the firm thinks that Smith & Nephew operates a fundamentally attractive business. Kenneth Squire, CNBC, 13 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for happen 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'happen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from hap

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near happen

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


hap·​pen ˈhap-ən How to pronounce happen (audio)
happened; happening ˈhap-(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce happen (audio)
: to occur or come about by chance
: to take place : occur
: to have occasion or opportunity
happened to overhear
: to meet or find something by chance
happened upon the right answer
: to appear casually or by chance
happened into the room just as the music started
: to come by way of injury or harm
nothing will happen to you

Middle English happenen "to occur by chance," from hap "chance, chance occurrence" — related to happy, mishap, perhaps

More from Merriam-Webster on happen

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