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 People have been cutting down Christmas trees since trees first became a part of Christmas, but now something new is happening – millennials are helping to buoy tree farms across North America. The Christian Science Monitor, "Keeping homeless people in mental view," 20 Dec. 2019 What happened instead, however, was that Qualcomm threatened to withhold its must-have chips from any handset manufacturer that didn’t also agree to pay an exorbitant licensing fee for its must-have technology. Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, "America’s latest corporate takeover: The Justice Department," 19 Dec. 2019 What happens next is up to the special prosecutor, Deters said. Sharon Coolidge, Cincinnati.com, "State auditor recommends 'dereliction of duty' charge for Gang of Five," 19 Dec. 2019 Meanwhile, what happened out in Fiji during season 39 is sure to be a topic of discussion on the Dec. 18 Island of the Idols season reunion (which will be filmed live-to-tape four hours early). Dalton Ross, EW.com, "Survivor and CBS announce new oversight after inappropriate touching incidents," 18 Dec. 2019 This is happening in a society without an appropriate understanding and acceptance of mental health issues, and in which mental health facilities are inadequate. Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman, Quartz Africa, "The distorted narratives about Islamic schools deflect from ugly truths about Nigerian society," 17 Dec. 2019 The whole thing happens in a limited ten-minute window, so don’t miss it. Megan Michelson, Outside Online, "7 Adventures to Start the New Decade with a Bang," 17 Dec. 2019 What about the people, products and practices that make that happen? Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Know, "This art show is offbeat, irresistible, the most rousing show of 2019 — and a mock Amazon warehouse," 16 Dec. 2019 Several other tooth-friendly deals are also happening at Amazon today, but those markdowns, along with this Whitestrips sale, will be over by tomorrow. Chelsea Stone, CNN Underscored, "Brighten your smile with this one-day sale on Crest Whitestrips," 16 Dec. 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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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

24 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happens. Accessed 22 January 2020.

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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

Comments on happen

What made you want to look up happen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to help to grow, develop, or succeed

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