pre·​oc·​cu·​py | \ (ˌ)prē-ˈä-kyə-ˌpī How to pronounce preoccupy (audio) \
preoccupied; preoccupying; preoccupies

Definition of preoccupy

transitive verb

1 : to engage or engross the interest or attention of beforehand or preferentially
2 : to take possession of or fill beforehand or before another

Examples of preoccupy in a Sentence

The question of life after death has preoccupied many philosophers.

Recent Examples on the Web

Which brings us to the dilemma that preoccupied Wednesday’s PBS discussion. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "The U.S. Is Rich, So Storms Are Worse," 14 Sep. 2018 Beatings became far more frequent, and Tony (who died in 2017) now preoccupied himself with a full-time career selecting young girls in the compound to be his brides. Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, "‘Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo’ Review: Hell on Earth," 21 Feb. 2019 But the internal turbulence has preoccupied her at a time when Germany is reckoning with far bigger international challenges, especially the growing transatlantic acrimony between Berlin and the Trump administration., "Merkel prevents breakup of German government with immigration deal," 2 July 2018 The ad shows the former Obama administration official as preoccupied with ways to hold the president’s policies in check, even taking notes about it while hiking with his family in the Rocky Mountains. Geoff Mulvihill, The Seattle Times, "State attorney general races gain attention in Trump era," 2 June 2018 Otherwise, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Juan Martin del Potro all won on a day the English spectators were preoccupied with two things: soccer and the sun. Howard Fendrich,, "Top-seeded Simona Halep upset at Wimbledon," 7 July 2018 The next two films in the series, The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember, are desperately preoccupied with mining Powers's ignorance for laughs, without ever holding it to serious account. Tom Philip, GQ, "Does Austin Powers Hold Up?," 11 Apr. 2018 Farmers and small-town people were often preoccupied with their own survival. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Hobo Hieroglyphs: Their Secret Symbols, Explained," 21 Nov. 2018 Today Bella Hadid is getting her wings ready for tomorrow’s Victoria’s Secret show, but earlier in the week she was preoccupied with technology in Toronto. Vogue, "Bella Hadid and The Weeknd Celebrate Technology in Toronto With Google and Rémy Martin," 7 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'preoccupy.' 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 preoccupy

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for preoccupy

Latin praeoccupare, literally, to seize in advance, from prae- + occupare to seize, occupy

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about preoccupy

Statistics for preoccupy

Last Updated

5 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for preoccupy

The first known use of preoccupy was in 1567

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for preoccupy



English Language Learners Definition of preoccupy

: to be thought about or worried about by (someone) very often or constantly

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on preoccupy

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


something valued as if it were money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!