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 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 Organizations that use the term have essentially told their employees that the past 16 months or so have not mattered, that those endless webcam Brady Bunch video meetings didn't even happen. Dan Pontefract, Forbes, 3 June 2021 Hayes said the family wants to make sure a situation like this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Paul Gattis | Pgattis@al.com, al, 3 June 2021 Baggs, the sheriff’s spokeswoman, said the hold-up was due to a county rule that requires the sheriff to get approval from the Board of Supervisors to accept naloxone donations, a vote that did not happen until September. Jeff Mcdonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 June 2021 That payday didn’t happen after Amazon bought the domestic distribution rights for about $10 million. Anousha Sakoui, Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2021 If that does happen, the winds hitting the upper floors of high-rises could be the strongest anyone experiences. David Fleshler, sun-sentinel.com, 31 May 2021 Nik Modi, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, notes that hard seltzers are popular at group gatherings, which largely didn’t happen last year. New York Times, 30 May 2021 The crash didn't happen—instead, the opposite occurred. Fortune, 29 May 2021 Taiwan’s people need your help to make sure that does not happen. Myra Lu, National Review, 28 May 2021

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

7 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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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 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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