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

Nearly three decades after the war, a number of unresolved issues still plague relations among the former Yugoslav republics, while nations stick to their own versions of what happened and who were the victims. Washington Post, "Mixed emotions in Balkans over Croatia’s World Cup success," 13 July 2018 The other is that those innovative companies must be led by people intimately familiar with what is happening on the frontlines of care: doctors, nurses, and others who directly care for patients. Alexi Nazem, STAT, "Health care needs more physician CEOs like Atul Gawande," 13 July 2018 Each week in this newsletter, Sarah Hauer will serve as your city guide and share stories about Milwaukee, its people and what's happening around town. Stephanie Morse, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Obituary: Mary Ellen Powers was a behind-the-scenes force in Milwaukee's business community," 13 July 2018 By comparison to what's happening this weekend across the pond at the Wimbledon Championships, there's far less glamour to a Met title, but both are born from a similar place: the love of the game. Adam Baum, Cincinnati.com, "Princeton, Little Miami grads team up and take men's Met doubles championship," 13 July 2018 Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world. Jennie Neufeld, Vox, "Vox Sentences: NATOhhh no...," 12 July 2018 This week’s turmoil at the heart of government could look tame compared with what will happen later this year when Parliament has to legislate. The Economist, "The Conservative Party has trashed the basic principles of conservatism," 12 July 2018 That was true for June at the Boston Globe, haunted by what happened within that building. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Handmaid's Tale' "Ready to Hit the Next Dimension" in Season 3, Producer Says," 12 July 2018 Back in 2016, fans first started noticing the DCOM stars had reconnected when Daniel appeared in Kimberly's hilarious short about what really happened to Kal at the end of Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "Marnie and Kal from "Halloweentown" Are Apparently a Couple," 12 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

29 Oct 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).


full of whispering sounds

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