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Lexi-tico: Ocupar

OCUPAR (o-ku-paɾ) From the Latin occupāre. So, you may be thinking this Spanish word slightly resembles the English word “occupy,” right? Like in “to occupy a territory” (as an infinitive) or “the restroom is occupied” (as an adjective). And,

lexitico ocupar

OCUPAR (o-ku-paɾ)

From the Latin occupāre. So, you may be thinking this Spanish word slightly resembles the English word “occupy,” right? Like in “to occupy a territory” (as an infinitive) or “the restroom is occupied” (as an adjective). And, as a matter of fact, “occupy” is an accurate translation for the Spanish verb “ocupar.”

In Spanish, you may say that “una casa es ocupada por sus inquilinos”, which translates as “a house is occupied by its tenants.” Nonetheless, “ocupado”, as an adjective, may also translate as “busy.” This means that the meaning of “ocupado” needs to be inferred based on the context and the subject (person/thing).

And, to make things even more interesting, many people in Costa Rica (and Mexico) also use the verb “ocupar” to mean that they need something, that is, “ocupar” is equivalent to “necesitar” (to need). Why? Who came up with that equivalence in meaning? Those questions go beyond the purpose of this text, but clearly shows that, as with any other language, culture has a definitive influence on how language evolves over time.

So, next time you hear a Tico/Tica say that they “ocupan” something, they will most likely be saying that they need something.

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jezamora@outlierlegal.com

Official Translator with 15+ years of experience in fields like law, immigration, business, technology, and banking. 5+ years of experience as an English/Spanish/Portuguese translator. Freelance translator for agencies in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil.

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