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What is the origin of the word happen? If it comes from the word hap, what is the early usage of that word?

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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, Will Hunting, Carlo_R., MετάEd, J.R. Nov 25 '12 at 10:04

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Why is this marked British English? Also, what dictionaries have you consulted? – tchrist Nov 25 '12 at 1:53
See the online etymological dictionary for initial self-researched answers to such basic questions. Then come back and ask a question about what you didn't understand. – user21497 Nov 25 '12 at 2:00

Yes, certainly happen comes from hap. Its earliest citations are only from the late 14th century. The OED reports that happen is from Middle English, and that is either from hap the noun, or as an extended form of hap the verb.

Here is an abbreviated set of their definitions and citations for hap the verb, which are “early” compared to our present era, but still recent enough to still make sense:

  1. intr. To come about by ‘hap’ or chance; to happen, come to pass, occur, chance. a. with the event expressed either by a sb. or pron. preceding the verb as subject, or by a clause or infinitive following it, the verb being then generally preceded by it. Formerly with auxiliary be instead of have.

    • 1596 Shaks. Tam. Shr. ɪᴠ. iv. 107 ― Then wherefore should I doubt: Hap what hap may, Ile roundly goe about her.
    • A. 1677 Barrow Serm. Wks. 1716 I. 22 ― What can hap to him worthy to be deemed evil?
    • 1808 Scott Marm. ɪɪɪ. xiv, ― Thus oft it haps, that··A feather daunts the brave.
    • 1880 Tennyson Battle Brunanburh xᴠ, ― Never had huger Slaughter of heroes··Hapt in this isle.
  2. To have the hap, fortune, or luck (to do something, or with clause).

    • 1814 Scott Ld. of Isles ɪɪɪ. xiii, ― Where’er I happ’d to roam.
  3. To come or go by chance; to light or chance on or upon. Cf. happen v. 4.

    • 1718 Bp. Hutchinson Witchcraft xᴠ. (1720) 168 ― He chanced to hap upon a Boy.
    • 1762 Foote Orators ɪɪ. Wks. 1799 I. 217 ― Was it yourself that was happing about here but now?
    • 1863 A. B. Grosart Small Sins Pref. Note (ed. 2) 14 ― [This book] I have not been fortunate enough to hap upon.
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According to American Heritage, it comes (like hap, hapless, happy, and mishap) from the PIE root *kob- 'to suit, fit, succeed'. – John Lawler Nov 25 '12 at 4:43
@JohnLawler That reminds me, do you happen to know a sound law that explains cornu > horn the way you see there? – tchrist Nov 25 '12 at 5:09
Grimm's Law works like this, and has these cognates, among others. – John Lawler Nov 25 '12 at 5:25

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