Printable Version
Pronunciation: hæp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. An accidental happening, occurrence (antonym mishap). 2. Luck, fortune, chance. 3. (Verb) To occur, happen.

Notes: We use today's word every day in mishap, happy, and happen without realizing it. Happy arose from the sense of "good fortune" used adjectivally as "fortunate". It appears on haphazard, too, in the senses of "luck" or "by luck, by chance". We also see it in hapless "unfortunate, unlucky".

In Play: A hap is just the opposite of a mishap: "Lucille had learned how to maneuver the little haps and mishaps of life with aplomb." It is an accidental happening: "The couple in 'As Time Goes by' did not get married when they were young because of a hapless hap involving a letter."

Word History: Cousins of today's Good Word are found throughout the Germanic languages: Icelandic happ "luck", Swedish happa "to happen", Norwegian heppa "to happen"—all derive from PIE kob- "to succeed, fare well". We also see it preserved whole in Sanskrit kob "good omen; congratulations, best wishes" and Serbian kob "fate". The cities of Kobrin, Belarus, Kobryn', Russia, and Kobryń, Poland probably got their names from the same PIE word. These are the only words in modern IE languages that can be found. Old Irish cob "victory" and Old Bulgarian and Old Russian kob' "fate" didn't make it through the jungles of linguistic history. (Now let's thank unofficial wordmaster George Kovac for recognizing the potential of today's rarely used Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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