hap·​pen | \ ˈha-pən How to pronounce happen (audio) , -pᵊm\
happened; happening\ ˈhap-​niŋ How to pronounce happening (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 What happens now to the people who came to the U.S. seeking asylum and were placed in M.P.P.? Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, "An Immigration Attorney at the A.C.L.U. on Fighting Trump’s Asylum Ban," 17 Sep. 2019 All of this is happening at the top speed, which is over 136 meters a second [446 feet per second]. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "This is what it’s like driving a Bugatti Chiron at 305mph," 17 Sep. 2019 Unfortunately for these Glendale, California, students, a nuclear blast happens to arrive just in time for the homecoming dance, and in the aftermath, the high school and all of its students have to band together to survive. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Netflix's "Daybreak" Releases First Trailer for the Apocalyptic High School Drama," 16 Sep. 2019 That also happened amid the international crisis following columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Shaji Mathew, Fortune, "What the Attacks on Saudi Aramco’s Main Oil Plant Mean for Its Massive IPO," 16 Sep. 2019 Detroit Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez tackles the tough questions as the Detroit Lions won their 2019 home opener, 13-10, against the Los Angeles Chargers: What happened to the Lions’ offense? Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions' special teams abysmal in win over L.A. Chargers," 15 Sep. 2019 Nearly everything happens in daytime hours, but check the website for specific times. Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Know, "Peek into a former sanatorium, French Gothic cathedral and more landmarks at Doors Open Denver," 15 Sep. 2019 This happens to be across the road from Heroes’ Acre, a hill on the edge of the city where the leading lights of the anti-colonial liberation struggle, including Mr Mugabe’s first wife, Sally, are buried. The Economist, "Even in death, Robert Mugabe worries his successor," 14 Sep. 2019 The key is to make the crows think something terrible has happened to one of their companions. Joan Morris, The Mercury News, "No wildebeests, but many other animals migrate through the Bay Area," 13 Sep. 2019

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 2019

Time Traveler for happen

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on happen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for happen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with happen

Spanish Central: Translation of happen

Nglish: Translation of happen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of happen for Arabic Speakers

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