something that happens; occurrence; event.
an unconventional dramatic or artistically orchestrated performance, often a series of discontinuous events involving audience participation.
any event considered worthwhile, unusual, or interesting.

Origin of happening

1545–55; 1965–70 for def 2; happen + -ing1

Synonyms for happening



verb (used without object)

to take place; come to pass; occur: Something interesting is always happening in New York.
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.
to have the fortune or lot (to do or be as specified); chance: I happened to see him on the street.
to befall, as to a person or thing: Something dreadful has happened to me.
to meet or discover by chance (usually followed by on or upon): to happen on a clue to a mystery.
to be, come, go, etc., casually or by chance: My friend happened along.
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

Synonyms for happen

1. betide. 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. 2019

Examples from the Web for happening

Contemporary Examples of happening

Historical Examples of happening

  • What might not be happening to Corney, she thought, while she was on the way to his rescue!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Sidney's heart, considering what was happening to it, behaved very well.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Linda could not tell what was happening from the murmur of voices.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • As soon as Lloyd began to realize what was happening, her face grew radiant.

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

  • Comrade Ossipon had no settled conception now of what was happening to him.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for happening



an occurrence; event
an improvised or spontaneous display or performance consisting of bizarre and haphazard events


informal fashionable and up-to-the-minute



(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


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

Word Origin and History for happening

mid-15c., "chance, luck," from present participle of happen; meaning "occurrence" is 1550s. Sense of "spontaneous event or display" is from 1959 in the argot of artists. Happenings "events" was noted by Fowler as a vogue word from c.1905.



c.1300, "to come to pass, occur," originally "occur by hap, to have the (good or bad) fortune (to do, be, etc.);" see hap (n.). Replaced Old English gelimpan, gesceon, and Middle English befall. In Middle English fel it hap meant "it happened." Related: Happened; happening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper