Definition of occupy in US English:



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

    ‘the apartment she occupies in Manhattan’
    • ‘During the study individual cells were occupied on average for 2.27 1.28 years.’
    • ‘Many catering businesses occupy old buildings and ventilation systems are often adapted to fit around the structure.’
    • ‘Many workers already occupy the place I will be calling home for the next three months.’
    • ‘This is one of the key areas for inward investment to improve the quality of both premises and the businesses that occupy them.’
    • ‘The ground floor of the building is presently occupied by both a taxi and a bookmaking business.’
    • ‘Two of the flats above the store were occupied by local tenants, however neither were home at the time.’
    • ‘Historians say the finds prove the site has been occupied for 10,000 years.’
    • ‘The three buildings are fully occupied by tenants, it said.’
    • ‘The refurbishment took place under difficult circumstances, with the tenants still occupying the building, Masilela adds.’
    • ‘Travellers occupying a controversial site next to a Southampton playing field are about to be booted off.’
    • ‘Only 30 of the road's 127 houses are occupied and five tenants live in the row likely to be demolished.’
    • ‘Fewer than half the shops were occupied by the same businesses that they had housed 10 years ago.’
    • ‘Prada is taking over 23,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by the Guggenheim museum.’
    • ‘She turned to the business people in south Wiltshire whose enterprises occupy listed buildings.’
    • ‘The main floor is presently occupied by commercial tenants.’
    • ‘The workshop is for Lismore commercial property owners and business operators occupying commercial premises.’
    • ‘Up to £2,000 is available for new businesses occupying vacant premises and employing at least one member of staff.’
    • ‘As a result, undesirable tenants occupied the buildings and disturbed the peace through illegal activities.’
    • ‘The new law is designed for businesses which occupy premises, and not property owners.’
    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 wall’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The spaces that weren't occupied by ships were filled with lasers in missiles.’
      • ‘School was just something to fill the time, to occupy the space between Tommy and sleep.’
      • ‘The 2,833 lakes in Lithuania occupy about 1.5 percent of the surface area of the nation.’
      • ‘According to one rabbinic text, a scholar suggests that David will occupy a throne next to God.’
      • ‘These are hollow casts that partially fill the space once occupied by the original crystals of anhydrite.’
      • ‘The bed which Peter now occupied once belonged to another girl.’
      • ‘‘Ashes and Snow’ was the first solo exhibit ever to occupy the entire space.’
      • ‘Spain occupies about 85 percent of the Iberian peninsula, with Portugal on its western border.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Though I'm a big fan of Nick, it's good to see somebody else occupying the space as well.’
      • ‘Where exposed the umbilicus occupies one-third of basal diameter.’
      • ‘Water vapor takes up space otherwise occupied by oxygen molecules.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He could not occupy the drawer space because it was filled with the props.’
      • ‘Every parking space was occupied and the line of voters extended from the gymnasium out into the lobby.’
      • ‘Her mind drifted towards the girl who had occupied the seat next to hers.’
      • ‘Then he placed her down on the chair she had occupied earlier.’
      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 place or position in a system or hierarchy)
      ‘on the corporate ladder, they occupy the lowest rungs’
      • ‘Germany has been occupying a leading position among foreign investors in Bulgaria.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The right to property was central to our founding; it occupied a vital place in the system of free government the founders built.’
      • ‘According to sociologists, people strive to occupy central positions in social networks in order to advance their careers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Members of the clergy occupy a central position in the lives of rank-and-file church members.’
      • ‘The Queensland Orchestra occupies a central place in Queensland's cultural life.’
      • ‘Spike slips down within the masculine hierarchy to occupy a significantly marginalized position.’
      • ‘In today's China, public education occupies the dominant position with non-governmental education sprouting up only in the past 10 years.’
      • ‘A really democratic and inclusive philosophy must insist that nobody in our culture occupies a central position from whom all others merely differ.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Throughout his career, Kennedy has worked to de-mystify painting, as well as the hierarchical system it occupies.’
      • ‘He constitutes the third side of the film's dramatic triangle, occupying a vital position.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Wine has come to occupy a central position in the social, cultural and economic life of modern Ireland.’
      • ‘The majority of Mexicans occupied a liminal position within the racial hierarchy of the southwestern states.’
    3. 1.3 Hold (a position or job).
      • ‘One-third of the 57 respondents occupy the position of CEO or president and the rest are vice-presidents or managers.’
      • ‘There is a Manning Clark Professor at ANU who, as I understand it, simply occupies Manning's old job.’
      • ‘Even the poor, low-paid jobs occupied by immigrant workers are now coveted.’
      • ‘Ninety-one percent of the officers in this sample were vice presidents or occupied a position of higher rank.’
      • ‘From 245 on he occupied a dominant position amongst the Achaeans, normally holding the generalship of the confederacy in alternate years.’
      • ‘A standard course for those currently occupying a supervisory position is also being developed.’
      • ‘I wouldn't want to be president, or occupy any other high-ranking position.’
      • ‘All the top jobs were occupied by whites before independence.’
      • ‘It is only three weeks ago that Garang was sworn in as first vice president, a position now occupied by his successor, Salva Kiir.’
      • ‘With Merkel now occupying the chancellery, the circle is complete.’
      • ‘You now occupy a position of leadership in your profession.’
      • ‘Toward the end of the Middle Ages, a new type of individual began to occupy the position of shadchan - the paid professional.’
      • ‘If the professor has come out, he or she may unwillingly occupy a position of dual authority in the eyes of students.’
      • ‘They occupy their positions at the invitation of the president.’
      • ‘The target is to achieve 10th place, the position currently occupied by the Czech Republic.’
      • ‘With Adorno's support, he returned to Frankfurt in 1964 as a professor of philosophy and sociology, occupying the position that Horkheimer had held.’
      • ‘Professional positions are usually occupied by individuals who have had post-secondary school education.’
      • ‘He moved up the hierarchy and, in 1920, occupied the position of press secretary.’
      • ‘She said outgoing officer Terri-Ann Pettet had done an amazing job in the four years she had occupied the position.’
      • ‘After all it was thanks to US and European financial and political backing that he occupies the presidency.’
      hold, be in, fill, have
      View synonyms
  • 2often be occupied with/inFill or preoccupy (the mind or thoughts)

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

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


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.