[ hap-uhn ]
See synonyms for: happenhappenedhappeninghappens on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object)
  1. to take place; come to pass; occur: Something interesting is always happening in New York.

  2. to come to pass by chance; occur without apparent reason or design: Don't ask me what caused it—it just happened, that's all.

  1. to have the fortune or lot (to do or be as specified); chance: I happened to see him on the street.

  2. to befall, as to a person or thing: Something dreadful has happened to me.

  3. to meet or discover by chance (usually followed by on or upon): to happen on a clue to a mystery.

  4. to be, come, go, etc., casually or by chance: My friend happened along.

  5. Slang. to be very exciting or interesting: That party was happening!

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.

Other words for happen

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use happen in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for happen


/ (ˈhæpən) /

  1. (intr) (of an event in time) to come about or take place; occur

  2. (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

  1. (tr) to chance (to be or do something): I happen to know him

  2. (tr; takes a clause as object) to be the case, esp if by chance, that: it happens that I know him

adverb, sentence substitute
  1. Northern English dialect

    • another word for perhaps

    • (as sentence modifier): happen I'll see thee tomorrow

Origin of happen

C14: see hap 1, -en 1


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