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.”
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Recent Examples on the Web So the question remains: What is going to happen to Fiesta Mall? Kaely Monahan, The Arizona Republic, 10 Jan. 2022 There was the usual tense moment when everyone thought nothing was going to happen. Graham Swift, The New Yorker, 10 Jan. 2022 What's going to happen to Paige, Preacher and Christopher now? Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, 6 Jan. 2022 The tune is connecting, but an Oscar nod isn’t going to happen. Paul Grein, Billboard, 6 Jan. 2022 Fights and stressful times are going to happen, but being able to let go of that anger and lay next to each other and laugh at the end of the day is a good relationship. Ruth Kinane, EW.com, 5 Jan. 2022 Indeed, there will be many prisoners on January 15, 2022 who are being detained unlawfully if the law comes into effect on that day and they are still incarcerated ... that is going to happen. Walter Pavlo, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 No one really knew what was going to happen, of course. Sandra Gonzalez, CNN, 5 Jan. 2022 No one truly knows what’s going to happen next — a feeling everyone experienced over the past eight days as a string of storms pushed rainfall totals way above average in a region that had been worrying about wildfires not long ago. Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Dec. 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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Dictionary Entries Near happen



happen along

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Statistics for happen

Last Updated

14 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Happen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happen. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for happen



English Language Learners Definition of happen

: to take place especially without being planned : occur
: 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.

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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