oc·​cur | \ə-ˈkər \
occurred; occurring\ ə-​ˈkər-​iŋ , -​ˈkə-​riŋ \

Definition of occur 

intransitive verb

1 : to be found or met with : appear This bird occurs in New England in the spring.

2 : to come into existence : happen The accident occurred at 5 p.m.

3 : to come to mind an idea that has occurred to me

Keep scrolling for more

The Meaning of Occur and the Spelling of Its Forms

Occur has three meanings. It means "to be found or met with; appear," as in "a phenomenon that occurs around the world"; it means "to come into existence; happen," as in "an event that occurred on Friday"; and it means "to come to mind," as in "it occurs to me that the word is quite useful."

It's an unusual-looking word, being so small but with two c's up against each other, and then just a simple r at the end. The r is doubled, though, for the past tense: occurred. And the double r continues in the present participle: occurring.

Examples of occur in a Sentence

The event is scheduled to occur at noon tomorrow. No one was ready for what was about to occur. There's a chance that a similar event will occur in the future. The disease tends to occur in children under the age of five. The plant occurs naturally throughout South America.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

All of this has occurred during an eight-year austerity drive by the national government that has squeezed budgets and reduced the number of police officers in London by 26 percent. Palko Karasz, New York Times, "Trump Targets London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan. How Fair Are His Criticisms?," 13 July 2018 Yet in terms of language, including what the state allows Chinese netizens to say online, a shift has occurred. The Economist, "In its trade war with America, China dials down the hype," 12 July 2018 In emerging-market countries like Indonesia and South Africa, the opposite has occurred in recent months, following a more familiar pattern. Mike Bird, WSJ, "China’s Bonds Buck the Emerging-Market Trend," 12 July 2018 Without the open markets that the WTO rules provide, this could not have occurred. Michael Joe Murphy, OrlandoSentinel.com, "World trade — what everyone needs to know," 11 July 2018 While the policy did not explicitly state that children must be separated from their parents, separations have occurred as a result of the tougher enforcement policy. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "Pregnant Women Are Allegedly Being Denied Medical Care in Immigration Detention Centers," 10 July 2018 Migrant advocates have said separations have occurred at the ports of entry for some time. Rafael Carranza, azcentral, "CBP: No family separations happening at border ports from zero-tolerance policy," 9 July 2018 No major injuries have occurred at the City Hall camp, although some injuries were reported following the forced eviction at 8th and Cherry Street. Philly.com, "ICE protestors outside City Hall battle heat, loss of electricity," 9 July 2018 Accidents involving Royal Caribbean cruisers have occurred in the past several months. Chabeli Herrera, miamiherald, "They were zip-lining on their honeymoon when they collided. He died, she was injured," 9 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of occur

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for occur

Latin occurrere, from ob- in the way + currere to run — more at ob-, car

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about occur

Statistics for occur

Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for occur

The first known use of occur was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for occur



English Language Learners Definition of occur

: to happen

: to appear or exist : to be found


oc·​cur | \ə-ˈkər \
occurred; occurring

Kids Definition of occur

1 : to come by or as if by chance : happen Success doesn't just occur, it is earned.

2 : to come into the mind It never occurred to me to ask.

3 : to be found or met with : appear It's a disease that occurs among cows.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on occur

What made you want to look up occur? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!