oc·​cu·​pa·​tion ˌä-kyə-ˈpā-shən How to pronounce occupation (audio)
: an activity in which one engages
Pursuing pleasure has been his major occupation.
: the principal business of one's life : vocation
Teaching was her occupation.
: the possession, use, or settlement of land : occupancy
the last of the historic private houses in the metropolis … still in the occupation of its hereditary ownerSidney (Australia) Bull.
: the holding of an office or position
it is only … the occupation … of two offices at the same time that offends public policyW. D. Miller
: the act or process of taking possession of a place or area : seizure
Spain's occupation of the island
: the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force
the Roman occupation of Britain
: the military force occupying a country or the policies carried out by it
The occupation addressed the concerns of the local population.
Choose the Right Synonym for occupation

work, employment, occupation, calling, pursuit, métier, business mean a specific sustained activity engaged in especially in earning one's living.

work may apply to any purposeful activity whether remunerative or not.

her work as a hospital volunteer

employment implies work for which one has been engaged and is being paid by an employer.

your employment with this firm is hereby terminated

occupation implies work in which one engages regularly especially as a result of training.

his occupation as a trained auto mechanic

calling applies to an occupation viewed as a vocation or profession.

the ministry seemed my true calling

pursuit suggests a trade, profession, or avocation followed with zeal or steady interest.

her family considered medicine the only proper pursuit

métier implies a calling or pursuit for which one believes oneself to be especially fitted.

acting was my one and only métier

business suggests activity in commerce or the management of money and affairs.

the business of managing a hotel

Example Sentences

He is thinking about changing occupations and becoming a police officer. “What's your occupation?” “I'm a stay-at-home mom.” Swimming was their main occupation at summer camp. Some evidence of human occupation was found in these caves. The offices are ready for occupation.
Recent Examples on the Web The General Assembly asked the court in December to give its opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, a move denounced by Israel. Edith M. Lederer, BostonGlobe.com, 15 May 2023 Settler leaders who are part of the hard-line government have advocated policies to expand Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Niha Masih, Washington Post, 9 May 2023 Among all occupations, data engineers saw the greatest change. Will Markow, Forbes, 5 May 2023 During Russia’s occupation, Ukrainian sources claimed Russian soldiers were pulled from garrison duty for treatment at radiation research center in Gomel, Belarus—a claim later supported by doctors in Belarus affiliated with the opposition. Sébastien Roblin, Popular Mechanics, 3 May 2023 Her Han name has little meaning to her, and was derived from the Japanese surname her Amis grandfather used under Japan’s occupation. Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times, 2 May 2023 Most of the time, depending on asylum-seekers’ occupations in Haiti, the paperwork goes through quickly. Liam Reilly, CNN, 30 Apr. 2023 These descriptions include details about each agent's occupation and relationships with other agents. Benj Edwards, Ars Technica, 11 Apr. 2023 Lawyers are only one occupation in the path of A.I. progress. Steve Lohr, New York Times, 10 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English occupacioun "possession of land, engagement in an activity, vocation, concern," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French occupaciun, borrowed from Latin occupātiōn-, occupātiō "seizing possession, preoccupation," from occupāre "to grasp, take possession of, fill up (space, a position)" + -tiōn- -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at occupy

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of occupation was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near occupation

Cite this Entry

“Occupation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupation. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


oc·​cu·​pa·​tion ˌäk-yə-ˈpā-shən How to pronounce occupation (audio)
: one's business or profession
: the taking possession and control of an area
occupation of a conquered country

More from Merriam-Webster on occupation

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