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See also: Happen




From Middle English happenen, hapnen, augmented from Middle English happen (to come to pass, happen), perhaps from Old English hæppan (to move accidentally, slip) and/or from Old Norse *happa, *heppa, from Proto-Germanic *hampijaną (to fit in, be fitting). Equivalent to hap (a chance, occurrence, byfall) +‎ -en (verbal suffix).


  • IPA(key): /ˈhæpən/
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  • Rhymes: -æpən


happen (third-person singular simple present happens, present participle happening, simple past and past participle happened)

  1. (intransitive) To occur or take place.
    • 2013 June 28, Joris Luyendijk, “Our banks are out of control”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 3, page 21:
      Seeing the British establishment struggle with the financial sector is like watching an alcoholic who still resists the idea that something drastic needs to happen for him to turn his life around.
    Let me tell you how it happened.
  2. (transitive, archaic) To happen to; to befall.
    • 1863, Sheridan Le Fanu, The House by the Churchyard
      'By my soul! I believe something bad has happened me,' he muttered, and popped up his window, and looked out, half dreaming over the church-yard on the park beyond []
  3. (intransitive or impersonal, with infinitive) To do or occur by chance or unexpectedly.
    Take an umbrella in case it happens to rain.
    Do you happen to have an umbrella?
    I happened to get wet.
  4. (followed by on or upon) To encounter by chance.
    • 1860, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, ch. 30:
      Unexpectedly, in a nook close by the farmhouse, he happened upon a spot where the vintage had actually commenced.

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happen (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete or dialect) maybe, perhaps.