When the word occupy was first used in the English language in the mid-fourteenth century, it meant "to make use of". From the 1470s to the 1700s, it also had a definition of "have sexual intercourse with", but the inappropriate meaning eventually died out in favor of our modern one (during this time, occupant also meant "prostitute"). Through Old French occuper, the word traces to Latin occupare, meaning "take possession of". That's composed of the prefix ob-, meaning "over" (from Proto-Indo-European hepi, meaning "on"), and the verb capere, meaning "seize" (also the etymon of captive, capiche, expect, receive, capacity, and many more words; through Proto-Italic kapio, it derives from Proto-Indo-European kap, "to grasp"). Literary usage of both occupy and occupant peaked in the late nineteenth century.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.