Occupation definition and synonyms

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Occupation

The noun occupation is used regularly by native English speakers in everyday conversations, in the workplace and even in history books!

This is because occupation has a couple of different meanings when used as a noun.

Let’s take a look at the different meanings of occupation:

1. The noun occupation can refer to a person’s job, the activities a person does and the responsibilities a person has in order to earn money or contribute to one’s livelihood.

2. Occupation can also refer to an activity or hobby done regularly by a person.

3. The third meaning is quite different from the first two meanings, here occupation is referring to the territorial control one country has over another. This use of occupation is often seen in history books.

Below are examples of how occupation can be used:

When occupation is used to refer to a person’s job:

“What occupation would you like when you finish your studies?” the counsellor asked the biology student. “I’m not sure, I’ve always been interested in working with animals. Maybe I could be a wildlife biologist. I would love my future career to be studying animals and their ecosystem.”

The new mother decided to change her occupation from a lawyer to a writer as she now has the opportunity to work from home as a writer which isn’t possible as a lawyer, unfortunately.

Here are some synonyms:

  • profession
  • job
  • calling
  • craft
  • employment
  • work
  • vocation

When occupation is used to refer to a person’s hobby or an activity that occupies a lot of their time:

Kate has a lot of pastimes such as writing, painting, swimming and skiing. Swimming is her favourite occupation as it relaxes her after a stressful day in the office.

John is only interested in extreme sports, his favourite occupation is waterfall kayaking but he also loves to paraglide, cliff dive and alpine ski.

Here are some synonyms:

  • activity
  • hobby
  • pastime
  • avocation
  • interest

When we use occupation to refer the territorial control one country has over another:

Military occupation is the control of a territory which can result in establishing a military government.

During World War II, Germany invaded many European countries which resulted in the occupation of these countries. This meant that countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and many more were under German control.

Here are some synonyms:

  • possession
  • control
  • acquisition
  • conquering
  • invasion
  • overthrow
  • takeover

Below is a conversation between two friends discussing how they spend their days:

Andrew: Hi Kirstie, how has your week been?

Kirstie: This week has been so busy because I’m reporting on the military occupation that has resulted in a mass migration of people fleeing the conflict.

Andrew: Of course! Your occupation as a reporter must mean that you haven’t had a minute to yourself this past week, I’ve been following the conflict and it seems like there is a new twist to the story every passing minute.

Kirstie: Tell me about it! It is terrible what is happening over there. But enough about me, what have you been up to?

Andrew: Not much, I’m still looking for a new job so I’ve decided to try out some new hobbies to keep me busy.

Kirstie: That is a great idea, what occupations are you interested in trying?

Andrew: Well, I’ve always been very creative so I enrolled in a painting course, I go every Thursday evening.

Kirstie: I would love to see one of your paintings, I’m sure you are very talented. 

Andrew: Thanks for the encouragement Kirstie. You never know, maybe one day I will have my own exhibition!

Kirstie: That would be fantastic!


There are also different types of words we can create from the noun occupation. For example:

›› Nouns: occupancy, occupant, occupier, preoccupation, reoccupation

1. Occupancy

2. Occupant

3. Occupier

4. Preoccupation

5. Reoccupation:
this refers to the act of gaining control over a territory after previously occupying the land.

Teacher: What happened on 7 March 1936?

Student: The reoccupation of the Rhineland by the German Army.

Teacher: Why was this important at the time?

Student: The reoccupation was the first time the German military had been in this region since the first World War.

Teacher: Very good, this changed the power balance in Europe and helped Hitler recover from the defeat in 1918.

Here are some synonyms:

  • remilitarisation

›› Verbs: Occupy, Preoccupy

1. Occupy

2. Preoccupy:
to be completely engrossed or occupied by something that you can’t focus or think about anything else.

The student was so preoccupied during her final exam that she didn’t notice when the student fainted right in front of her until a huge crowd had gathered around the sick student.

“I’m so nervous, I need something to preoccupy myself with or I won’t be able to calm down,” said one applicant to another during the application process.

Here are some synonyms:

  • engross
  • consume
  • distract
  • immerse

›› Adjectives: Occupational, Occupiable

1. Occupational

2. Occupiable:
this describes nouns that can be occupied or filled.

The new skyscraper has 40 floors but there are only 38 occupiable floors. These 38 floors will be used as offices and the other two floors are mechanical areas.

An important skill of an interior designer is to make use of any occupiable space in a person’s home or office. This role is especially important if the area is relatively small, the designer can’t waste the occupiable space or any empty areas that could be used for storage.

›› Related phrasal verb: Occupy with, to keep someone occupied

Occupy with:
this means to hold someone’s attention with something or to keep them busy with something else.

When the little boy was getting his blood taken, his mother decided to occupy him with one of his storybooks to distract him from the needle as she knew he was scared about the pain.

While the security guard was occupied with his favourite TV soap, the teenagers snuck past him and trespassed onto the private property. The guard was so engrossed in the soap that he didn’t notice the teenagers until after the program.

If you didn’t want to use the phrasal verb occupy with you could use the phrase to keep someone occupied for example:

The teacher kept her students occupied while they waited for the school bus to arrive by playing games with them in the yard.

The burglars created a scene outside the occupant’s house to keep them occupied while they raided and stole all the valuables in the house.

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