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[hap-uh n] /ˈhæp ən/

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!
(intransitive) (of an event in time) to come about or take place; occur
(intransitive) 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
(transitive) to chance (to be or do something): I happen to know him
(transitive; takes a clause as object) to be the case, esp if by chance, that: it happens that I know him
adverb, sentence substitute
(Northern English, dialect)


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.


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  • Happenstance

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  • Hanky-pank

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  • Hanky

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