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

Definition of occupy

transitive verb

1 : to engage the attention or energies of They occupied themselves with video games.
2a : to take up (a place or extent in space) this chair is occupied the fireplace will occupy this corner of the room
b : to take or fill (an extent in time) the hobby occupies all of my free time
3a : to take or hold possession or control of enemy troops occupied the ridge
b : to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position) will occupy the newly created office of chancellorCurrent Biography
4 : to reside in as an owner or tenant occupies an apartment on a two-year lease

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Other Words from occupy

occupier \ ˈä-​kyə-​ˌpī(-​ə)r How to pronounce occupier (audio) \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The desert may seem tough, but because the living things that occupy it are so singularly adapted to their unique environment, scientists say it’s a place particularly susceptible to climate change. Erin Stone, The Arizona Republic, "Boyce Thompson Arboretum makes room for thousands of fragile desert specimens," 15 Nov. 2020 His best work has always featured subjects that occupy liminal spaces where two worlds collide—East and West, the human and the supernatural, the digital and the analog. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "Fireball Is Werner Herzog’s Ode to Space Rocks," 12 Nov. 2020 These are all things that can occupy Sundays in New England, and an occasional Monday, too, now that the Patriots aren’t the Patriots anymore. Jason Gay, WSJ, "The Patriots May Be Pretty Bad, and That Feels Weird to Say," 8 Nov. 2020 Try a labor-intensive recipe, such as croissants, macarons, or the infamous turducken — something that could occupy your mind for several hours or days. Christen A. Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Commentary: 11 ways to cope with the anxiety of election week," 2 Nov. 2020 Immigration, college affordability and voter suppression — concerns that typically occupy top spots — are still considered important but have been superseded by the pandemic. Claire Wang, NBC News, "Asian Americans could be tiebreakers in key swing states, survey and early voting results show," 30 Oct. 2020 Like other types of slow lorises, Javan slow lorises form long-term mating pairs that occupy small territories containing one or several gum-producing trees. Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, "Slow Lorises Are Adorable but They Bite With Flesh-Rotting Venom," 19 Oct. 2020 Multiple leaders mentioned territorial disputes that stem from colonial times — spats that occupy a big part of the docket at the U.N.'s international courts. Angela Charlton, Star Tribune, "At UN, nations urge overdue reckoning with colonial crimes," 28 Sep. 2020 The veteran newsman selected the topics that will occupy each 15-minute segment of the 90-minute debate on Tuesday from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Washington Post, "‘Race and Violence in our Cities’? A topic for the first presidential debate draws criticism.," 23 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'occupy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of occupy

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for occupy

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.

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Time Traveler for occupy

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for occupy

Last Updated

25 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Occupy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupy. Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for occupy


How to pronounce occupy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of occupy

somewhat formal : to live in (a house, apartment, etc.)
: to fill or be in (a place or space)
: to fill or use (an amount of time)


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

Kids Definition of occupy

1 : to fill up (an extent of time or space) Sports occupy our spare time. A liter of water occupies 1000 cubic centimeters of space.
2 : to take up the attention or energies of Reading occupied me most of the summer.
3 : to live in as an owner or tenant Her sisters occupied the house for three years.
4 : to take or hold possession of Enemy troops occupied the town.
5 : to perform the functions of She occupies a position of authority.

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