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See more synonyms for preoccupied on Thesaurus.com
  1. completely engrossed in thought; absorbed.
  2. previously occupied; taken; filled.
  3. Biology. already used as a name for some species, genus, etc., and not available as a designation for any other.
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Origin of preoccupied

First recorded in 1835–45; preoccupy + -ed2
Related formspre·oc·cu·pied·ly, adverbpre·oc·cu·pied·ness, nounun·pre·oc·cu·pied, adjective


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1. busy; concentrating.


verb (used with object), pre·oc·cu·pied, pre·oc·cu·py·ing.
  1. to absorb or engross to the exclusion of other things.
  2. to occupy beforehand or before others.
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Origin of preoccupy

First recorded in 1560–70; pre- + occupy
Related formspre·oc·cu·pi·er, nouno·ver·pre·oc·cu·py, verb (used with object), o·ver·pre·oc·cu·pied, o·ver·pre·oc·cu·py·ing.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for preoccupied

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • His mind had been so preoccupied that he had forgotten about the ditch.

  • But Eli ate sparingly, and with a preoccupied and solemn look.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • "She hasn't any tolerance in her, anyhow," and he was grave and preoccupied all through dinner.

  • He'll never benefit himself in that way, patient and preoccupied workman.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Long, as if the person knocking were preoccupied in mind, and forgot to leave off.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for preoccupied


  1. engrossed or absorbed in something, esp one's own thoughts
  2. already or previously occupied
  3. biology (of a taxonomic name) already used to designate a genus, species, etc
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verb -pies, -pying or -pied (tr)
  1. to engross the thoughts or mind of
  2. to occupy before or in advance of another
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Word Origin

C16: from Latin praeoccupāre to capture in advance, from prae before + occupāre to seize, take possession of
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for preoccupied


"absorbed in thought," 1823, past participle adjective from preoccupy (v.). Earlier it meant "occupied in advance."

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1560s, from pre- + occupy. Related: Preoccupied; preoccupying.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper