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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Ukrainian forces occupy the high ground in some areas but are in lower elevation bowls in others, a tactically dangerous scenario, in which enemy troops can look down to rain gunfire and have an expansive view to call in artillery strikes. Anastacia Galouchka, Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2023 Only 14 suites — including the 1,000-square-foot Sky Penthouse with a private infinity pool (from $1,100 per night) — occupy more than 200 acres. Kathryn Romeyn, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Mar. 2023 Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world, mountains, caves, archeological sites, a dense rainforest, rivers, and enough flora and fauna to occupy any nature enthusiast. Judy Koutsky, Forbes, 22 Mar. 2023 While all catfish species are found in a range of depths, channels usually occupy the shallowest water and blues the deepest. Pete M. Anderson, Field & Stream, 20 Mar. 2023 Specializing in baked goods and international and Guatemalan cuisine, San Martín will occupy the former Coal Vines Pizza space at 5407 Belt Line Road next to EVO Cinemas, which closed in March 2020. Imelda García, Dallas News, 20 Mar. 2023 Vulcan also speculates that CEMEX will seek to occupy the property with the support of the military and police for an unknown period and distribute its unloaded materials to its customers. Brandon Gillespie, Fox News, 20 Mar. 2023 But Louis XVI never took a lover, meaning his wife effectively had to occupy the roles of both queen and mistress. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Mar. 2023 In this concept, Marine Littoral Regiments—organized around one infantry battalion, one air defense battalion, and anti-ship missile battery—occupy remote islands in contested water. Sébastien Roblin, Popular Mechanics, 16 Mar. 2023 See More

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 1 Apr. 2023.

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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