Definition of occupy in English:



[with object]
  • 1Reside or have one's place of business in (a building)

    ‘the rented flat she occupies in Hampstead’
    • ‘Travellers occupying a controversial site next to a Southampton playing field are about to be booted off.’
    • ‘The refurbishment took place under difficult circumstances, with the tenants still occupying the building, Masilela adds.’
    • ‘She turned to the business people in south Wiltshire whose enterprises occupy listed buildings.’
    • ‘The workshop is for Lismore commercial property owners and business operators occupying commercial premises.’
    • ‘The ground floor of the building is presently occupied by both a taxi and a bookmaking business.’
    • ‘Prada is taking over 23,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by the Guggenheim museum.’
    • ‘Fewer than half the shops were occupied by the same businesses that they had housed 10 years ago.’
    • ‘The main floor is presently occupied by commercial tenants.’
    • ‘The new law is designed for businesses which occupy premises, and not property owners.’
    • ‘This is one of the key areas for inward investment to improve the quality of both premises and the businesses that occupy them.’
    • ‘Only 30 of the road's 127 houses are occupied and five tenants live in the row likely to be demolished.’
    • ‘The three buildings are fully occupied by tenants, it said.’
    • ‘Many workers already occupy the place I will be calling home for the next three months.’
    • ‘As a result, undesirable tenants occupied the buildings and disturbed the peace through illegal activities.’
    • ‘During the study individual cells were occupied on average for 2.27 1.28 years.’
    • ‘Two of the flats above the store were occupied by local tenants, however neither were home at the time.’
    • ‘Many catering businesses occupy old buildings and ventilation systems are often adapted to fit around the structure.’
    • ‘Up to £2,000 is available for new businesses occupying vacant premises and employing at least one member of staff.’
    • ‘Historians say the finds prove the site has been occupied for 10,000 years.’
    inhabited, lived-in, tenanted, settled
    live in, inhabit, be the tenant of, tenant, lodge in, be ensconced in, be established in, ensconce oneself in, establish oneself in, take up residence in, make one's home in, settle in, move into
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Fill or take up (a space or time)
      ‘two long windows occupied almost the whole of the end wall’
      • ‘The purpose is to fill the space occupied by the standard recoil spring guide and also provide a bit of a cushion for the slide.’
      • ‘Every parking space was occupied and the line of voters extended from the gymnasium out into the lobby.’
      • ‘The bed which Peter now occupied once belonged to another girl.’
      • ‘School was just something to fill the time, to occupy the space between Tommy and sleep.’
      • ‘Water vapor takes up space otherwise occupied by oxygen molecules.’
      • ‘Though I'm a big fan of Nick, it's good to see somebody else occupying the space as well.’
      • ‘The congregation had to negotiate dangerous steep stairs and fill the space not occupied by a spinning wheel and furniture.’
      • ‘Fluid fills the space normally occupied by air in the middle ear.’
      • ‘‘Ashes and Snow’ was the first solo exhibit ever to occupy the entire space.’
      • ‘Her mind drifted towards the girl who had occupied the seat next to hers.’
      • ‘Where exposed the umbilicus occupies one-third of basal diameter.’
      • ‘He could not occupy the drawer space because it was filled with the props.’
      • ‘The 2,833 lakes in Lithuania occupy about 1.5 percent of the surface area of the nation.’
      • ‘These are hollow casts that partially fill the space once occupied by the original crystals of anhydrite.’
      • ‘Spain occupies about 85 percent of the Iberian peninsula, with Portugal on its western border.’
      • ‘The spaces that weren't occupied by ships were filled with lasers in missiles.’
      • ‘Then he placed her down on the chair she had occupied earlier.’
      • ‘According to one rabbinic text, a scholar suggests that David will occupy a throne next to God.’
      • ‘The machine occupied a whole room, filling it with a tangle of piano wires and pulleys to move its various wheels and gears.’
      • ‘Owner Larry Hyatt estimates ammunition occupies about 15 percent of the shop's space.’
      in use, full, engaged, taken, unavailable
      take up, fill, fill up, cover, extend over, use up, utilize
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Be situated in or at (a position in a system or hierarchy)
      ‘the Bank of England occupies a central position in the UK financial system’
      • ‘He constitutes the third side of the film's dramatic triangle, occupying a vital position.’
      • ‘The majority of Mexicans occupied a liminal position within the racial hierarchy of the southwestern states.’
      • ‘Aryabhata occupies a central position in the evolution of knowledge.’
      • ‘China occupies a central position in Japan's Asian diplomacy, and the Taiwan issue is key to Japanese diplomacy toward China.’
      • ‘Wine has come to occupy a central position in the social, cultural and economic life of modern Ireland.’
      • ‘The Queensland Orchestra occupies a central place in Queensland's cultural life.’
      • ‘Members of the clergy occupy a central position in the lives of rank-and-file church members.’
      • ‘Spike slips down within the masculine hierarchy to occupy a significantly marginalized position.’
      • ‘Throughout his career, Kennedy has worked to de-mystify painting, as well as the hierarchical system it occupies.’
      • ‘The story of how middle-class women came to occupy this central position in dance is a complex one, but told often in the literature.’
      • ‘In today's China, public education occupies the dominant position with non-governmental education sprouting up only in the past 10 years.’
      • ‘The right to property was central to our founding; it occupied a vital place in the system of free government the founders built.’
      • ‘Germany has been occupying a leading position among foreign investors in Bulgaria.’
      • ‘The PRC will undoubtedly be an important influence on an international system in which it occupies a rather anomalous position.’
      • ‘According to sociologists, people strive to occupy central positions in social networks in order to advance their careers.’
      • ‘As Kenya's largest group, the Gikuyu occupy a central position in Kenyan social life.’
      • ‘For example, individuals who have been with the company longer may be more likely to occupy central positions in social networks.’
      • ‘A really democratic and inclusive philosophy must insist that nobody in our culture occupies a central position from whom all others merely differ.’
      • ‘Most firms are small, but are linked into networks in which a few large corporations (systems houses) occupy key positions.’
      • ‘As teachers we occupy positions in relation to specific knowledges which are necessarily different.’
      • ‘Why should psychology occupy a central position at all levels of education?’
    3. 1.3 Hold (a position or job)
      ‘a very different job from any that he had occupied before’
      • ‘There is a Manning Clark Professor at ANU who, as I understand it, simply occupies Manning's old job.’
      • ‘The target is to achieve 10th place, the position currently occupied by the Czech Republic.’
      • ‘One-third of the 57 respondents occupy the position of CEO or president and the rest are vice-presidents or managers.’
      • ‘You now occupy a position of leadership in your profession.’
      • ‘After all it was thanks to US and European financial and political backing that he occupies the presidency.’
      • ‘A standard course for those currently occupying a supervisory position is also being developed.’
      • ‘Even the poor, low-paid jobs occupied by immigrant workers are now coveted.’
      • ‘Professional positions are usually occupied by individuals who have had post-secondary school education.’
      • ‘With Merkel now occupying the chancellery, the circle is complete.’
      • ‘They occupy their positions at the invitation of the president.’
      • ‘With Adorno's support, he returned to Frankfurt in 1964 as a professor of philosophy and sociology, occupying the position that Horkheimer had held.’
      • ‘It is only three weeks ago that Garang was sworn in as first vice president, a position now occupied by his successor, Salva Kiir.’
      • ‘She said outgoing officer Terri-Ann Pettet had done an amazing job in the four years she had occupied the position.’
      • ‘All the top jobs were occupied by whites before independence.’
      • ‘Toward the end of the Middle Ages, a new type of individual began to occupy the position of shadchan - the paid professional.’
      • ‘From 245 on he occupied a dominant position amongst the Achaeans, normally holding the generalship of the confederacy in alternate years.’
      • ‘I wouldn't want to be president, or occupy any other high-ranking position.’
      • ‘Ninety-one percent of the officers in this sample were vice presidents or occupied a position of higher rank.’
      • ‘If the professor has come out, he or she may unwillingly occupy a position of dual authority in the eyes of students.’
      • ‘He moved up the hierarchy and, in 1920, occupied the position of press secretary.’
      hold, be in, fill, have
      View synonyms
  • 2Fill or preoccupy (the mind)

    ‘her mind was occupied with alarming questions’
    • ‘These are the kind of pointless questions that occupy the mind when you have nothing better to do.’
    • ‘Flashes of inspiration need never go to waste, buried amid the hundreds of other clever thoughts occupying your mind.’
    • ‘He had been too occupied earlier to give it a thought until now.’
    • ‘Two things, you'll be surprised to discover, have been occupying my mind since last night.’
    • ‘The survey of the top brands occupying consumers' minds was first conducted 20 years ago.’
    • ‘That seems to be the key question occupying the minds of economists at the moment.’
    • ‘And my friends were all too occupied to notice my boredom.’
    • ‘But what's occupying my mind right now is the following question: do compact discs get slower as they get older?’
    • ‘Squash had occupied her mind and as she grew up her only concern was to keep improving.’
    • ‘They fell into a comfortable silence, each occupied with their own thoughts and emotions.’
    • ‘They are simply asking themselves the question that occupies any young mind: ‘What will make me happier?’’
    • ‘Dalen began asking her questions to occupy her mind.’
    • ‘Once again, she focused solely on the travel and when they entered Trent late the next day, she had other concerns occupying her mind.’
    • ‘Dysfunctional families seem to be occupying the minds of Scotland's visiting choreographers.’
    • ‘I roll my eyes and we fall quiet again, occupied with our own thoughts.’
    • ‘That question was to occupy my mind for some years, before I could finally come up with something.’
    • ‘They walked without conversation for awhile, each one occupied with thoughts of their own.’
    • ‘Merely occupying the mind with substitutes for full time work will not do.’
    • ‘His mind had been too occupied to notice the raging tempest that was taking place up deck.’
    • ‘Cecil was too occupied to notice the last part, and so didn't ask any questions.’
    engage, busy, employ, distract, absorb, engross, preoccupy, hold, hold the attention of, immerse, interest, involve, entertain, divert, amuse, beguile
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Keep (someone) busy and active.
      ‘Sarah occupied herself taking the coffee cups over to the sink’
      • ‘For the next few hours, the remaining soldiers were occupied by burying those of their group that had been killed by the rogues.’
      • ‘She hid her face and dashed past them while Jennifer was busy occupying Aaron.’
      • ‘He grinned silently; she was pretty occupied at the moment.’
      • ‘I thought this was strange, but I was occupied at the time with trying to finalize my divorce.’
      • ‘His parents had gone out to dinner, and his sisters were all occupied at the moment.’
      • ‘Many families are occupied with the task of simply getting by.’
      • ‘I am a regular visitor to the area and particularly on wet, windy days there is little to occupy the children.’
      • ‘My father was occupied for such long hours with administration that I hardly saw him at that time.’
      • ‘The one-month programme recognises the fact that school children need to be gainfully occupied during summer holidays, he adds.’
      • ‘‘I am used to working such long hours I shall need something to occupy me,’ he said.’
      • ‘So, I've got books to occupy me for the next little while.’
      • ‘At least finding this Daniel Mason person would occupy him for a while when he got back.’
      • ‘Wenger has other problems to occupy him ahead of today's Highbury meeting with Southampton.’
      • ‘Here are some movie and artsite suggestions to occupy you.’
      • ‘Occupied with her task she became a different person: calm, businesslike, and driven.’
      • ‘But I have plenty of things to do that can pleasantly occupy me.’
      • ‘McAllister has more than enough to occupy him at club level.’
      • ‘The new leisure centre will provide services for the community, including essential activities to occupy young people.’
      • ‘I'm terribly sorry but Mr. Collins is occupied at the moment.’
      busy, engaged, working, employed, at work, on the job, hard-pressed, active
      View synonyms
  • 3Take control of (a place, especially a country) by military conquest or settlement.

    ‘Syria was occupied by France under a League of Nations mandate’
    • ‘Washington sent Marines into Haiti in 1915 and militarily occupied the country for nearly 20 years.’
    • ‘Militarily occupying countries is a terribly inefficient way to obtain energy.’
    • ‘By using ‘air policing,’ the British maintained control without occupying the country.’
    • ‘In Poland it is looking into the use of several facilities once occupied by Soviet forces.’
    • ‘During World War II he parachuted into German occupied territory in a German uniform, and escaped death narrowly.’
    • ‘We visited each occupied and previously occupied territory at least twice per month.’
    • ‘The US military will continue to occupy the country, exercising powers amounting to martial law.’
    • ‘In the countries occupied by the Red Army at that time, vicious purges took place against religious leaders of all faiths.’
    • ‘Then in 1882, following a failed attempt by the Egyptian army to end foreign interference, British troops occupied the country.’
    • ‘Now, ironically, it was time to fill the space formerly occupied by indigenous people with indigenous people.’
    • ‘On September 17, Soviet troops invaded and then occupied eastern Poland under the terms of this agreement.’
    • ‘There is no talk of Pearl Harbor, or of fascist, military dictators, or occupied nations, or a fight for democracy.’
    • ‘A further influence was the iconography of the early Christian art of the Byzantines who occupied southern Spain.’
    • ‘If military forces aggressively occupy an area, the power needed to operate water pumps and plants may not be available.’
    • ‘How can you be a sovereign nation while your country is occupied by the military of another nation?’
    • ‘We know they have occupied their neighbor Kuwait, and we have thrown them out.’
    • ‘Historically, when military forces occupied belligerent territory, little how-to guidance existed.’
    • ‘In 1920, army troops from what was then the Soviet Union invaded and occupied the capital city, Baku.’
    • ‘Collective punishment is forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 governing militarily occupied territories.’
    • ‘Most of the population occupied what would become the republic of Tajikistan in the former Soviet Union.’
    capture, seize, take possession of, conquer, invade, overrun, take over, colonize, garrison, annex, dominate, subjugate, hegemonize, hold, commandeer, requisition
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    1. 3.1 Enter and stay in (a building) without authority and often forcibly, especially as a form of protest.
      ‘the workers occupied the factory’
      • ‘On September 5 workers occupied a building at the firm's Poznan headquarters and began a hunger strike.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Workers have occupied this sprawling factory since the local government sold it to a private enterprise, three years ago.’
      • ‘Since then the workers have been occupying the factory without general trade union support.’
      • ‘In January 2002, hundreds of workers and supporters occupied the utility headquarters for 36 days.’
      • ‘At the beginning of May, the trade unions had been dissolved; trade union offices were forcibly occupied and leading officials arrested.’
      • ‘In some instances, workers have occupied shutdown plants in protest.’
      • ‘Workers occupied the plant, stayed for over a year and finally won.’
      • ‘Workers occupied the factory in protest over the dismissal of 250 of the company's 500-strong workforce.’
      • ‘In a threatened workplace by far the best answer is for workers to occupy the factory or plant.’
      • ‘Protesters threatened to occupy the council building if legislators and the shoe company continue to ignore their demands.’
      • ‘The building is occupied by workers from the Traffic Square Restaurant, and other workers working for the owner.’
      • ‘As part of their protest, workers occupied the factory roof.’
      • ‘Protesters, who occupied the council's building, accused the governor of corruption.’
      • ‘The workers subsequently occupied the factory and restarted production, this time operating as owners of a cooperative.’
      • ‘You could name them, boycott them, occupy their offices and force them out of business.’
      • ‘Early in September, some 5,000 people from various areas in Sampang, protested the delay by occupying the regency office.’
      • ‘When workers occupied the banks in protest against closures in January, the unions ordered them to be handed over to the receivers.’
      • ‘There are about 400 illegal immigrant farm workers occupying buildings in Seville, Spain, demanding the right to stay in the country.’
      • ‘The workers occupied the factory and after three years are still hoping to be able to buy the factory and get it back into production.’


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.