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 But if the Clemson-FSU game wasn’t going to happen, many wondered whether Notre Dame could simply opt out of its game with Wake Forest. Eric Hansen, The Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame football remains No. 2 in playoff, schedule changes," 5 Apr. 2021 But at some point a run by Gonzaga is going to happen and the game is going to break open. USA TODAY, "Final Four predictions for men's NCAA Tournament games," 3 Apr. 2021 However, Friday’s announcement would seem to indicate that’s not going to happen. Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, "Kansas basketball coach Bill Self agrees to ‘lifetime contract’," 2 Apr. 2021 Before homeowners took over, repairs were always going to happen in the future. Natividad Seefeld, Star Tribune, "Homeowners who rent land need a chance to buy it," 1 Apr. 2021 So moving the Blazers up with a 3-1 week wasn’t going to happen. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, "NBA power rankings: Portland Trail Blazers hold steady after making trade deadline move," 31 Mar. 2021 The international front is probably going to happen sooner than some people might think. Nicholas Quah, Vulture, "Spotify Has Its Own Clubhouse Now," 30 Mar. 2021 All of it is going to happen with the words and the language and what is going on in an internal aspect for the character. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "Inside the Williamstown Theatre Festival's Unexpected, Inventive New Season," 30 Mar. 2021 But, at that point, when people are fully vaccinated, mingling with a family that's not, there's really a very, very low risk that anything bad is going to happen. ABC News, "'This Week' Transcript 3-28-21: White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, Sen. Dan Sullivan," 28 Mar. 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

8 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 10 Apr. 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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