oc·​cu·​pa·​tion ˌä-kyə-ˈpā-shən How to pronounce occupation (audio)
: an activity in which one engages
Pursuing pleasure has been his major occupation.
: the principal business of one's life : vocation
Teaching was her occupation.
: the possession, use, or settlement of land : occupancy
the last of the historic private houses in the metropolis … still in the occupation of its hereditary ownerSidney (Australia) Bull.
: the holding of an office or position
it is only … the occupation … of two offices at the same time that offends public policyW. D. Miller
: the act or process of taking possession of a place or area : seizure
Spain's occupation of the island
: the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force
the Roman occupation of Britain
: the military force occupying a country or the policies carried out by it
The occupation addressed the concerns of the local population.
Choose the Right Synonym for occupation

work, employment, occupation, calling, pursuit, métier, business mean a specific sustained activity engaged in especially in earning one's living.

work may apply to any purposeful activity whether remunerative or not.

her work as a hospital volunteer

employment implies work for which one has been engaged and is being paid by an employer.

your employment with this firm is hereby terminated

occupation implies work in which one engages regularly especially as a result of training.

his occupation as a trained auto mechanic

calling applies to an occupation viewed as a vocation or profession.

the ministry seemed my true calling

pursuit suggests a trade, profession, or avocation followed with zeal or steady interest.

her family considered medicine the only proper pursuit

métier implies a calling or pursuit for which one believes oneself to be especially fitted.

acting was my one and only métier

business suggests activity in commerce or the management of money and affairs.

the business of managing a hotel

Examples of occupation in a Sentence

He is thinking about changing occupations and becoming a police officer. “What's your occupation?” “I'm a stay-at-home mom.” Swimming was their main occupation at summer camp. Some evidence of human occupation was found in these caves. The offices are ready for occupation.
Recent Examples on the Web The young and old are piled in together -- pets fill the floor -- all with stories of life under Russian occupation. Britt Clennett, ABC News, 12 Sep. 2023 Continued occupation could force Israel into a hard choice: Formalize Jewish minority rule over disenfranchised Palestinians, or give them the right to vote and potentially end the Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine. Tia Goldenberg, BostonGlobe.com, 6 Sep. 2023 Following in a parent's footsteps to pursue the same occupation is commonplace, especially in the world of sports. Scooby Axson, USA TODAY, 1 Sep. 2023 This affects regulations on agriculture, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources, property, business and commerce and occupations. Dave Lieber, Dallas News, 30 Aug. 2023 Advertisement San Diego wages are up Food service occupations in San Diego County tended to be the lowest paying as of May 2022, while management occupations had the highest hourly wage. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Sep. 2023 Far too many of the Israelis protesting Netanyahu right now have been passive at best in the face of the occupation and have only turned out to protest when their own rights have come under direct threat. David Klion, The New Republic, 1 Sep. 2023 They had been born during the Japanese occupation and lived through the Korean War; some looked to the past, taking inspiration from Korean folk forms. Andrew Russeth, New York Times, 1 Sep. 2023 The Allied Military Government places a Brit, Major Ivan Hirst, in charge of the factory, which is put back into service to fulfill an order for 20,000 VWs for the occupation forces. Alexander Stoklosa, Car and Driver, 31 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'occupation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English occupacioun "possession of land, engagement in an activity, vocation, concern," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French occupaciun, borrowed from Latin occupātiōn-, occupātiō "seizing possession, preoccupation," from occupāre "to grasp, take possession of, fill up (space, a position)" + -tiōn- -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at occupy

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of occupation was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near occupation

Cite this Entry

“Occupation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupation. Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


oc·​cu·​pa·​tion ˌäk-yə-ˈpā-shən How to pronounce occupation (audio)
: one's business or profession
: the taking possession and control of an area
occupation of a conquered country

More from Merriam-Webster on occupation

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