See more synonyms for happen 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.
  3. to have the fortune or lot (to do or be as specified); chance: I happened to see him on the street.
  4. to befall, as to a person or thing: Something dreadful has happened to me.
  5. to meet or discover by chance (usually followed by on or upon): to happen on a clue to a mystery.
  6. to be, come, go, etc., casually or by chance: My friend happened along.
  7. 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

See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
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. 2018

Examples from the Web for happens

Contemporary Examples of happens

Historical Examples of happens

  • But did you ever stop to think what happens when you write a letter?

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • They were smuggled, mind you, and no matter what happens, he can't squeal.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Lucky the cayuse who happens to be the right size for his harness.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

  • If he happens to appear in the office, I have to associate with him; but, thank Heaven!

    American Notes

    Rudyard Kipling

  • I am with him because it happens from particular circumstances to suit my convenience.

British Dictionary definitions for happens


  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
  3. (tr) to chance (to be or do something)I happen to know him
  4. (tr; takes a clause as object) to be the case, esp if by chance, thatit happens that I know him
adverb, sentence substitute
  1. 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 happens



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