[ hap-uhn ]
/ ˈhæp ən /
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See synonyms for: happen / happened / happening / happens on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object)
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Origin of happen

First recorded in 1300–50, happen is from the Middle English word hap(pe)nen. See hap1, -en1

synonym study for happen

1. Happen, chance, occur refer to the taking place of an event. Happen, which originally denoted the taking place by hap or chance, is now the most general word for coming to pass: Something has happened. Chance suggests the accidental nature of an event: It chanced to rain that day. Occur is often interchangeable with happen, but is more formal, and is usually more specific as to time and event: His death occurred the following year.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a basic definition of happen?

Happen means to occur, to come to pass by chance, or to befall someone or something. Happen has several other senses as a verb.

Happen is a very general word that simply means to occur or take place. For example, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln happened on April 15, 1865. That date is when this event took place.

  • Real-life examples: Halloween happens on October 31. Scientists run experiments to see what happens. Nobody knows what will happen in the future. History is a record of what happened in the past.
  • Used in a sentence: The police blocked off the street where the car accident happened. 

Happen also means to occur due to chance or take place without any planning or intent.

  • Used in a sentence: Joe happened to be standing in the exact spot where the water balloon landed. 

Happen is also used to mean to be on the receiving end of an event or action, particularly as a result of good or bad luck. This sense is usually written as “to happen to.”

  • Used in a sentence: Sherri was terrified that something horrible had happened to her kitten.

In this sense, an event is sometimes called a happening, especially if it is unusual or interesting. A slang usage of happening is used to describe an event as exciting.

  • Used in a sentence: Summer is usually busy with happenings like beach parties. Summertime is happening!

Where does happen come from?

The first records of happen come from the early 1300s. It comes from the Middle English happenen, which is formed from the older word hap, meaning “luck” or “event,” and the suffix -en, which turns verbs into adjectives (fasten) or nouns (strengthen).

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What are some other forms related to happen?

What are some synonyms for happen?

What are some words that share a root or word element with happen

What are some words that often get used in discussing happen?

How is happen used in real life?

Happen is an extremely common word that means to occur or take place.

Try using happen!

True or False?

If a boxing match happened in Chicago, it means that the fight took place in the city of Chicago.

How to use happen in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for happen

/ (ˈhæpən) /

(intr) (of an event in time) to come about or take place; occur
(intr foll by to) (of some unforeseen circumstance or event, esp death), to fall to the lot (of); be a source of good or bad fortune (to)if anything happens to me, it'll be your fault
(tr) to chance (to be or do something)I happen to know him
(tr; takes a clause as object) to be the case, esp if by chance, thatit happens that I know him
adverb, sentence substitute
Northern English dialect
  1. another word for perhaps
  2. (as sentence modifier)happen I'll see thee tomorrow

Word Origin for happen

C14: see hap 1, -en 1

undefined happen

See occur
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012