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happen

[hap-uh n] /ˈhæp ən/
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
1300-1350
1300-50; Middle English hap(pe)nen. See hap1, -en1
Synonyms
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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for happen upon
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Here we happen upon a church which, though restored about thirty years ago, retains many points of interest to the antiquary.

    Nooks and Corners of Shropshire H. Thornhill Timmins
  • The artist was so careful to cling closely to contemporary conventions that sometimes we happen upon very amusing compromises.

    Stained Glass Tours in France Charles Hitchcock Sherrill
  • How many times had he wished he might happen upon that Pitcher just as he was now, in street clothes—to look at him, study him!

    Bunker Bean Harry Leon Wilson
  • We happen upon them not only in the modified Colonial structures, but in houses in every period of architecture.

  • This, then, proves that there are white buffaloes upon the prairies; and why should we not happen upon them as well as others?

    The Boy Hunters Captain Mayne Reid
  • For he had not forgotten his plan of selling them, or anything else he might happen upon, to raise all the money he could.

    The White Crystals Howard R. Garis
  • We follow him to see how he will wake Francis Raven, and what will happen upon that.

  • To prevent the disorders that may happen upon this occasion, is the chief design of this paper.

British Dictionary definitions for happen upon

happen

/ˈhæpən/
verb
1.
(intransitive) (of an event in time) to come about or take place; occur
2.
(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
3.
(transitive) to chance (to be or do something): I happen to know him
4.
(transitive; takes a clause as object) to be the case, esp if by chance, that: it happens that I know him
adverb, sentence substitute
5.
(Northern English, dialect)
  1. another word for perhaps
  2. (as sentence modifier): happen I'll see thee tomorrow
Word Origin
C14: see hap1, -en1
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
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Word Origin and History for happen upon

happen

v.

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
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