oc·​cu·​py ˈä-kyə-ˌpī How to pronounce occupy (audio)
occupied; occupying

transitive verb

: to engage the attention or energies of
They occupied themselves with video games.
: to take up (a place or extent in space)
this chair is occupied
the fireplace will occupy this corner of the room
: to take or fill (an extent in time)
the hobby occupies all of my free time
: to take or hold possession or control of
enemy troops occupied the ridge
: to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position)
will occupy the newly created office of chancellorCurrent Biography
: to reside in as an owner or tenant
occupies an apartment on a two-year lease
occupier noun

Examples of occupy in a Sentence

They have occupied the apartment for three years. She occupies the house that her grandfather built 50 years ago. They own another house that they occupy only three months out of the year. They occupy the room next to ours. This region was once almost completely occupied by forests. Their house occupies a beautiful spot next to the ocean. Much of our time is occupied by answering questions from our customers. These questions have continued to occupy her mind.
Recent Examples on the Web The occupying German forces had established a defensive position atop the cliff, stationing several long-range guns that posed a major threat to the Allied troops coming ashore. Rachel Treisman, NPR, 7 June 2024 But activists who want the park preserved remained unconvinced, and tensions boiled over in January when the university deployed hundreds of law enforcement officers to clear out protesters who’d been occupying the space. Sierra Lopez, The Mercury News, 6 June 2024 Porat continued to occupy the CFO role as the company and board searched for her successor. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 6 June 2024 Empty and nearly empty office buildings also hurt restaurants and other businesses that served the companies and workers who occupied those spaces. Julie Creswell, New York Times, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for occupy 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'occupy.' 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 occupien "to take possession of, hold, inhabit, take up space in, fill, keep (oneself) busy," borrowed from Anglo-French occuper, occupier, borrowed from Latin occupāre "to grasp, appropriate to oneself, take possession of, fill up (space, a position), forestall," from oc-, assimilated variant of ob- ob- + -cupāre, intensive derivative of capere "to take, seize, catch" — more at heave entry 1

Note: The source of the -i- in Anglo-French occupier and Middle English occupien, retained in Modern English, is unclear, as continental French has only occuper. The verb occupy, common in later Middle and early Modern English, was very infrequently used in the 17th and first two thirds of the 18th century; it has been suggested that this was due to the sense "to have sexual intercourse with (a woman)," which impinged by connotation on the less charged meanings and led to a taboo on any use of the word. When the socially unacceptable sense fell out of circulation occupy once more became a generally used word.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near occupy

Cite this Entry

“Occupy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupy. Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


oc·​cu·​py ˈäk-yə-ˌpī How to pronounce occupy (audio)
occupied; occupying
: to take up the attention or energies of
reading occupied me most of the summer
: to fill up (space or time)
sports occupied most of their spare time
a liter of water occupies 1000 cubic centimeters of space
: to take or hold possession of
enemy troops occupied the town
: to live in as owner or tenant
occupy an apartment
occupier noun

More from Merriam-Webster on occupy

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