"On the Media" | Visual Thesaurus
"Occupy" is a strong contender for word of the year, says Ben Zimmer, who leads the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, which selected "app" last year and "tweet" in 2009. Other possibilities for 2011 include "winning" (thanks, Charlie Sheen) and "downgrade" (courtesy of the U.S. credit rating). Zimmer tells Brooke Gladstone that the word "occupy" has been around in English since the 14th century, but it was used to describe protests -- by Italian factory workers -- for the first time in 1920. Zimmer says:

It is this extremely useful word for the movement because as it spread to other cities, it can very easily just work as a kind of a template. Occupy blank, Occupy the-name-of-your-town-here. ...

On Visual Thesaurus, he describes how recent use has already changed the word linguistically:

The demonstrators usually call themselves occupiers, though they've also been called occupants or even occupationistas. And with the growth of the movement, the verb occupy no longer requires "Wall Street" or any other object to follow it. About a week after the OWS demonstration began, in late September, people were already talking about "the Occupy protests" and "the Occupy movement." In a newspaper created for OWS, the Occupy Wall Street Journal, a list of "5 Things You Can Do Now" begins with #1: "Occupy! Bring instruments, food, blankets, bedding, rain gear, and your friends." To occupy can now be used as an intransitive verb meaning to take part in the Occupy protests. (Naturally, the hashtag #occupy has taken off on Twitter in recent weeks.)

The original call to "Occupy Wall Street" came July 13 from Adbusters, which suggested that people protest Sept. 17 in lower Manhattan. Protests have continued there and spread across the country. || Related: As Occupy Wall Street evolves, news sites find it 'a great opportunity for Web journalism' (Nieman Journalism Lab) | A tale of two Protests: How OWS coverage compares to Tea Party coverage (PEJ)