From pre- +‎ occupy, after Middle French preoccuper, and its source, Latin praeoccupo, praeoccupare. Doublet of preoccupate, now obsolete.



preoccupy (third-person singular simple present preoccupies, present participle preoccupying, simple past and past participle preoccupied)

  1. (transitive) To distract; to draw attention elsewhere. [from 16th c.]
    The father tried to preoccupy the child with his keys.
    • 1962 October, “Talking of Trains: Passed to you, Mr. Macmillan”, in Modern Railways, page 220:
      Dr. Beeching's obvious intent is that if Scottish—and similarly unprofitable English and Welsh—railways are to be maintained, it must be done by an unconcealed subsidy; he is determined that the railways shall no longer be preoccupied with—and derided for—immense deficits which include the burden of social services the State must openly underwrite, if it wants them.
  2. (transitive) To worry or concern (someone) so as to distract them.
    It always preoccupies me when he acts like this.
  3. (transitive, obsolete) To occupy or take possession of beforehand. [16th–19th c.]
    • 1751, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, vol. III, ch. 91:
      Terrified at this uproar, [] she ran for shelter into the place which was pre-occupied by the other lady [] .

Related termsEdit