Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To occupy completely the mind or attention of; engross. See Synonyms at monopolize.
  • transitive v. To occupy or take possession of in advance or before another.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To distract; to occupy or draw attention elsewhere.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To take possession of before another.
  • transitive v. To prepossess; to engage, occupy, or engross the attention of, beforehand; hence, to prejudice.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To occupy before others; take possession of or appropriate for use in advance of others.
  • To fill beforehand; cause to be occupied previously.
  • To occupy or engage the attention of beforehand; engross in advance of others; prepossess; preëngage.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. engage or engross the interest or attention of beforehand or occupy urgently or obsessively
  • v. occupy or take possession of beforehand or before another or appropriate for use in advance

Etymologies

From pre- +‎ occupy. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The exhibition explores an artist who was strikingly modern in character, confronting subjects and themes – the city, sexuality, manners, social integration, crime, political corruption, charity and patriotism – that continue to preoccupy us today.

    Culture

  • One problem is that the ideas that preoccupy the author here have to do with language itself.

    Impossible Cities

  • Unravelling what happened and how close the nation came to disaster will preoccupy scientists and engineers for years.

    Japan nuclear fears as systems fail at second reactor

  • I found myself wishing and wishing for the heartache to just stop; that something else, anything, would preoccupy my mind.

    Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

  • Attacking commercial aviation—the central nervous system of the global economy—continued to preoccupy al-Qaeda after 9/11.

    The Longest War

  • But there are answers to major American problems that preoccupy us today, such as long-term debt (see the recommendations of recent deficit commissions) and political gridlock (for example, changes in redistricting procedures to reduce gerrymandering).

    The Misleading Metaphor of Decline

  • However I wonder what all of this -- including the life without parole a potential possibility -- says about us as a society, and as individuals who likely see ourselves as too busy to preoccupy ourselves with something that seems indubitably savage.

    Carol Smaldino: Stories of Forgiveness

  • However, on the big, burning questions that still preoccupy many of us -- not so much "what are we?" as "why are we?"

    Christopher Lane: Debates About Agnosticism Are As Old As The Concept Itself

  • Before we leave the State of the Union to focus on whatever squabbles will preoccupy us next week, it's worth pausing on a curious observation made by Paul Ryan in his response -- a sentiment sure to come back in the battles ahead.

    Charade of the week: What 'hammock' is Paul Ryan talking about?

  • The agony of the parents, the periodic cruelty of the father -- all are the powerful but passing dramas that for the moment entirely preoccupy us as we watch the movie.

    Rabbi David Wolpe: The Religious Meaning Of Malick's 'Tree of Life'

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