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 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

That happened in the second round, the Eastern Conference Finals, and even halfway through the second quarter in Game 4, when what initially looked like a comfortable Warriors win quickly became a lot more interesting. Andrew Sharp, SI.com, "Did Kawhi Leonard Just Close the Door on the Warriors?," 8 June 2019 In Friday’s ruling, Trapp said several other entities should have been notified of what was happening in court and given the chance to weigh in. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Court rules in county’s favor, strikes blow to Julian volunteer firefighters," 8 June 2019 Police say the shooting happened in the 800 block of Central Avenue before 9:15 a.m. Friday. Cincinnati.com, "Roads closed in West End for shooting investigation," 7 June 2019 The data show that the four workplace killings with the highest death toll happened in government offices or at a government work event. Washington Post, "Mass shootings in the workplace are rare and puzzling," 7 June 2019 Harford County Councilman Andre Johnson is encouraging people to remember victims of gun violence this weekend by wearing orange, as well as take part in a Wear Orange Community Cleanup and Fair happening in Edgewood Saturday. David Anderson, baltimoresun.com, "Harford Councilman Johnson announces community cleanup, fair Saturday in Edgewood to remember gun violence victims," 6 June 2019 And it was made even better because something incredibly special happened around webOS in 2009. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "The Palm Pre launched 10 years ago today, here’s what it meant to me," 6 June 2019 And this has only happened in the last decade, really, and the Warriors have won three of the last four titles. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Jalen Rose Has a Problem with Basketball Analytics," 6 June 2019 But at the same time, Nichole is a baby who is completely innocent and can’t be blamed for what’s happening in Gilead. Constance Grady, Vox, "The Handmaid’s Tale is ready to burn it all down in season 3," 5 June 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

11 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for happen

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on happen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with happen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for happen

Spanish Central: Translation of happen

Nglish: Translation of happen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of happen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on happen

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