happen

verb

hap·​pen ˈha-pən How to pronounce happen (audio)
-pᵊm
happened; happening ˈhap-niŋ How to pronounce happen (audio)
ˈha-pə-

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
4
a
: to meet or discover something by chance
happened upon a system that workedRichard 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

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.”
Recent Examples on the Web That's what happened at the SVA Theatre, where Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Steve Carell, Matt Damon and more stepped out on May 13 to debut the movie If. Kate Hogan, Peoplemag, 14 May 2024 The report said this happens even while aid groups are in constant communication with Israeli officials about coordinates. Hadeel Al-Shalchi, NPR, 14 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for happen 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'happen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from hap

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near happen

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

happen

verb
hap·​pen ˈhap-ən How to pronounce happen (audio)
ˈhap-ᵊm
happened; happening ˈhap-(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce happen (audio)
1
: to occur or come about by chance
2
: to take place : occur
3
: to have occasion or opportunity
happened to overhear
4
a
: to meet or find something by chance
happened upon the right answer
b
: to appear casually or by chance
happened into the room just as the music started
5
: to come by way of injury or harm
nothing will happen to you
Etymology

Middle English happenen "to occur by chance," from hap "chance, chance occurrence" — related to happy, mishap, perhaps

More from Merriam-Webster on happen

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!