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

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 As local news disappears, bad things happen: Voter participation declines. Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post, 29 June 2022 Transformations require new skills and rarely happen overnight. Dave Hart, Forbes, 29 June 2022 And on an acting level, too, there’s obviously so much more that can happen when there are two factors instead of trying to create something that’s built around yourself. Sasha Urban, Variety, 28 June 2022 In the opening scene, Steve Martin’s Charles smugly announces that the city’s not where really bad things happen. Sadie Stein, Town & Country, 28 June 2022 Several states, including Texas, set trigger laws either banning abortions entirely or severely restricting when the procedure can happen. Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, 28 June 2022 Under the proposal, the city would conduct a feasibility study and the transformation would happen within 180 days. J.d. Capelouto, ajc, 28 June 2022 This spooked users into pulling their money from Solend en masse, emptying the vaults much as would happen in a bank run. Danny Nelson, Fortune, 28 June 2022 History tells us that bad things can happen to an institution that loses its public credibility. Los Angeles Times, 28 June 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near happen



happen along

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Statistics for happen

Last Updated

1 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for happen


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on happen

Nglish: Translation of happen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of happen for Arabic Speakers


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