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

transitive verb

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

Example Sentences

The question of life after death has preoccupied many philosophers.
Recent Examples on the Web The point of the exercise is to convince conservative voters that something is being done about all the woke mobs that preoccupy the fever dreams of right-wing media. Katherine Stewart, The New Republic, 14 Feb. 2023 These are some of the big global challenges that preoccupy Pier Luigi Sigismondi, president of Dole Packaged Foods Worldwide, which makes canned pineapple, frozen fruit and other food products. Robin D. Schatz, Forbes, 26 Feb. 2021 But there are still important (and growing) risks to preoccupy world leaders, business decisionmakers, and the rest of us in 2023. Ian Bremmer, Time, 3 Jan. 2023 The group also grappled with questions that still preoccupy campaigns in the digital age: how best to directly reach voters beyond interviews and rallies? Brian Murphy, Washington Post, 17 Dec. 2022 Inflation and interest rates preoccupy financial markets now, but there is no assurance that will be the case a year from now. Jeff Sommer, New York Times, 16 Dec. 2022 The questions of poetry’s relationship to our interior landscape and our public responsibilities preoccupy Ó Tuama. Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker, 5 Dec. 2022 The text is a medical treatise that carefully examines the concerns that preoccupy a dying person. Edna Bonhomme, The Atlantic, 1 Nov. 2022 Rage and acceptance continue to preoccupy her work, but one thing Emmons has determined not to do is write a memoir. Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times, 31 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of preoccupy was in 1567

Dictionary Entries Near preoccupy

Cite this Entry

“Preoccupy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 2023.

Kids Definition


pre·​oc·​cu·​py (ˈ)prē-ˈäk-yə-ˌpī How to pronounce preoccupy (audio)
: to hold the attention of beforehand
: to take possession of before another
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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