late 14c., happenen, "to come to pass, occur, come about, be the case," literally "occur by hap, have the (good or bad) fortune (to do, be, etc.);" extension (with verb-formative -n) of the more common hap (v.). Old English used gelimpan, gesceon, and Middle English also had befall. In Middle English fel it hap meant "it happened." Related: Happened; happening. Phrase happens to be as an assertive way to say "is" is from 1707.