pre·​oc·​cu·​pied (ˌ)prē-ˈä-kyə-ˌpīd How to pronounce preoccupied (audio)
: previously applied to another group and unavailable for use in a new sense
used of a biological generic or specific name
: lost in thought
also : absorbed in some preoccupation
: already occupied
Choose the Right Synonym for preoccupied

abstracted, preoccupied, absent, absent-minded, distracted mean inattentive to what claims or demands consideration.

abstracted implies absorption of the mind in something other than one's surroundings, and often suggests reflection on weighty matters.

walking about with an abstracted air

preoccupied often implies having one's attention so taken up by thoughts as to neglect others.

too preoccupied with her debts to enjoy the meal

absent stresses inability to fix the mind on present concerns due more to mental wandering than to concentration on other matters.

an absent stare

absent-minded implies that the mind is fixed elsewhere and often refers to a habit of abstractedness.

so absent-minded, he's been known to wear mismatched shoes

distracted may suggest an inability to concentrate caused by worry, sorrow, or anxiety.

was too distracted by grief to continue working

Examples of preoccupied in a Sentence

too preoccupied with her worries to enjoy the meal
Recent Examples on the Web Mom the mayor is too preoccupied to notice her own child’s distress, over that or the controlling behavior of bad-boy new squeeze Rob (Tyler James White). Dennis Harvey, Variety, 20 Jan. 2024 Or were you too preoccupied still trying to make Nate’s character arc make a lick of sense? Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 2024 Other patrons also seen in the picture all seemed preoccupied with their personal orders. Angel Saunders, Peoplemag, 9 Jan. 2024 But that quarter-century-old German thriller’s simplicity of plot supported its hyperbolic style, while here the writer-director is so preoccupied with camera and editorial calisthenics, nothing else has a chance to come into focus. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 7 Dec. 2023 Anthropic was founded in 2021 by former staffers of OpenAI, who left that startup over differences regarding OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft—including concerns that OpenAI was abandoning a mission of making safer, more ethical AI and becoming too preoccupied with commercial concerns. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, 2 Dec. 2023 And the president who was more preoccupied with sending aid to Palestinians that almost certainly got diverted to Hamas, and with unwinding Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign, than squeezing Iranian terrorists. The Editors, National Review, 10 Nov. 2023 The business team often accuses the security function of not comprehending its role while the security team claims that the business group is too preoccupied to prioritize security matters. Steve Durbin, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was too preoccupied with the fight against Germany to leave Moscow. Peter Englund, Foreign Affairs, 24 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of preoccupied was in 1790

Dictionary Entries Near preoccupied

Cite this Entry

“Preoccupied.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​oc·​cu·​pied (ˈ)prē-ˈäk-yə-ˌpīd How to pronounce preoccupied (audio)
: lost in thought : engrossed
: already occupied

More from Merriam-Webster on preoccupied

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