Definition of occupy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɒkjʊpʌɪ/

verb (occupies, occupying, occupied)

[with object]
1Reside or have one’s place of business in (a building): the rented flat she occupies in Hampstead
More example sentences
  • Many catering businesses occupy old buildings and ventilation systems are often adapted to fit around the structure.
  • Fewer than half the shops were occupied by the same businesses that they had housed 10 years ago.
  • Only 30 of the road's 127 houses are occupied and five tenants live in the row likely to be demolished.
inhabited, lived-in, tenanted, settled
live in, inhabit, be the tenant of, tenant, lodge in, be established/ensconced in, establish/ensconce oneself in, take up residence in, make one's home in, settle in, move into;
people, populate, settle;
Scottish & South African  stay in
formal reside in, dwell in
2Fill or take up (a space or time): two long windows occupied almost the whole of the end wall
More example sentences
  • Fluid fills the space normally occupied by air in the middle ear.
  • The congregation had to negotiate dangerous steep stairs and fill the space not occupied by a spinning wheel and furniture.
  • These are hollow casts that partially fill the space once occupied by the original crystals of anhydrite.
in use, full, engaged, taken, unavailable
take up, fill, fill up, cover, extend over, use up, utilize
2.1Be situated in or at (a position in a system or hierarchy): the Bank of England occupies a central position in the UK financial system
More example sentences
  • Spike slips down within the masculine hierarchy to occupy a significantly marginalized position.
  • The PRC will undoubtedly be an important influence on an international system in which it occupies a rather anomalous position.
  • Most firms are small, but are linked into networks in which a few large corporations (systems houses) occupy key positions.
2.2Hold (a position or job): a very different job from any that he had occupied before
More example sentences
  • There is a Manning Clark Professor at ANU who, as I understand it, simply occupies Manning's old job.
  • All the top jobs were occupied by whites before independence.
  • With Merkel now occupying the chancellery, the circle is complete.
hold, be in, fill, have
informal hold down
3Fill or preoccupy (the mind): her mind was occupied with alarming questions
More example sentences
  • That seems to be the key question occupying the minds of economists at the moment.
  • That question was to occupy my mind for some years, before I could finally come up with something.
  • These are the kind of pointless questions that occupy the mind when you have nothing better to do.
engage, busy, employ, distract, absorb, engross, preoccupy, hold, hold the attention of, immerse, interest, involve, entertain, divert, amuse, beguile
3.1Keep (someone) busy and active: Sarah occupied herself taking the coffee cups over to the sink
More example sentences
  • She hid her face and dashed past them while Jennifer was busy occupying Aaron.
  • At least finding this Daniel Mason person would occupy him for a while when he got back.
  • For the next few hours, the remaining soldiers were occupied by burying those of their group that had been killed by the rogues.
busy, engaged, working, employed, at work, on the job, hard-pressed, active;
absorbed, engrossed, interested, involved, focused on, immersed, preoccupied
informal tied up, hard at it, wrapped up, on the go, on the trot
British informal on the hop
4Take control of (a place, especially a country) by military conquest or settlement: Syria was occupied by France under a League of Nations mandate
More example sentences
  • The US military will continue to occupy the country, exercising powers amounting to martial law.
  • How can you be a sovereign nation while your country is occupied by the military of another nation?
  • In the countries occupied by the Red Army at that time, vicious purges took place against religious leaders of all faiths.
capture, seize, take possession of, conquer, invade, overrun, take over, colonize, garrison, annex, dominate, subjugate, hegemonize, hold, commandeer, requisition
4.1Enter and stay in (a building) without authority and often forcibly, especially as a form of protest: the workers occupied the factory
More example sentences
  • Workers occupied the factory in protest over the dismissal of 250 of the company's 500-strong workforce.
  • As part of their protest, workers occupied the factory roof.
  • The workers occupied the factory after a protest stoppage on January 26 in support of a 300 rupees pay increase owing to them since last year.


Middle English: formed irregularly from Old French occuper, from Latin occupare 'seize'. A now obsolete vulgar sense 'have sexual relations with' seems to have led to the general avoidance of the word in the 17th and most of the 18th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: oc¦cupy

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