v. hap·pened, hap·pen·ing, hap·pens
a. To come to pass: Where did the accident happen?
b. To come about as a consequence; result: Trouble always seems to happen when he's around.
c. To be the fate; become: What will happen to the business when the owner retires?
2. To encounter something by chance: I happened upon an interesting article in the newspaper.
3. To come or go casually; make an appearance: My friend happened by around dinnertime.
1. Used with the impersonal subject it and a following clause or infinitive to indicate the occurrence of a usually unexpected or chance event: It happened that I was in the shower when you called. It happened to snow on the night she was born.
2. To have the fortune (to be or do something); be in a situation or position (to be or do something): The bus station happens to be close to the museum. I happen to know the answer to that question.
3. Used with an infinitive to make polite requests: Do you happen to know the time?
[Middle English happenen, from hap, chance; see HAP.]
Synonyms: happen, befall, betide, chance, occur
These verbs mean to come about: saw an awful thing happen; predicted that misery will befall humankind; woe that betides the poor soldier; former friends who chanced to meet again; described the accident exactly as it occurred.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.