hap·​pen | \ ˈha-pən How to pronounce happen (audio) , -pᵊm \
happened; happening\ ˈhap-​niŋ How to pronounce happen (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 Lee appeared to be referring to a prediction by legal scholar Benny Tai, who was among those arrested, of what would happen to Hong Kong if China continued to diminish its autonomy. David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, "Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy figures arrested in one of China’s biggest crackdowns," 5 Jan. 2021 Early in the Jerry Angelo era, a Chicago Bears personnel executive talked about how the division would be up for grabs once the aging Brett Favre moved on, something that was going to happen sooner rather than later. Brad Biggs, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level in Year 2 of Matt LaFleur’s offense. Now the QB and the Green Bay Packers stand between the Chicago Bears and the playoffs.," 31 Dec. 2020 But terraforming Mars isn't going to happen anytime soon. USA Today, "On a planet where you cannot breathe, is living on Mars the best idea?," 30 Dec. 2020 Worried about what would happen in the winter, the owners and a team of local tattoo artists and hairstylists decided to use the barroom as a barbershop, mixing drinks and gentlemen’s dos to weather the lockdown. William Boston, WSJ, "In Covid-19 Lockdowns, Businesses Hunt for Loopholes," 24 Dec. 2020 Zimmerman has made a study of what can happen when the public accepts myth rather than history, and even he was swept up in the Hopkins narrative recently disproved by Hopkins history professor Martha S. Jones and her small team. Jonathan M. Pitts, baltimoresun.com, "When history is a fable: Distorted accounts of the lives of Johns Hopkins and other famous men have consequences, historians say," 22 Dec. 2020 Bioethicists fear this is a preview of what will happen with vaccine allocation. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, "What the Chaos in Hospitals Is Doing to Doctors," 22 Dec. 2020 But there was always an underlying uncertainty about what would happen to our town, which bubbled up in destructive ways. J.j. Anselmi, The New Republic, "The Rise and Fall of a Fracking Boom Town: An Oral History," 21 Dec. 2020 Weather reporter Leigh Morgan is on the briefing to talk about what might happen in this week’s Alabama weather. Ike Morgan | Imorgan@al.com, al, "Down in Alabama: Vaccine ‘miscommunication,’ bowl updates and possible wintry weather," 21 Dec. 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

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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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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Comments on happen

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