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 ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.