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)
- (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.
- (transitive) To worry or concern (someone) so as to distract them.
It always preoccupies me when he acts like this.
- (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 […] .