or pre-empt


verb (used with object)

to occupy (land) in order to establish a prior right to buy.
to acquire or appropriate before someone else; take for oneself; arrogate: a political issue preempted by the opposition party.
to take the place of because of priorities, reconsideration, rescheduling, etc.; supplant: The special newscast preempted the usual television program.

verb (used without object)

Bridge. to make a preemptive bid.
to forestall or prevent (something anticipated) by acting first; preclude; head off: an effort to preempt inflation.


Bridge. a preemptive bid.

Origin of preempt

1840–50, Americanism; back formation from preemption
Related formspre·emp·ti·ble, adjectivepre·emp·tor [pree-emp-tawr, -ter] /priˈɛmp tɔr, -tər/, nounpre·emp·to·ry [pree-emp-tuh-ree] /priˈɛmp tə ri/, adjectiveun·pre·empt·ed, adjective

Synonyms for preempt Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pre-empt

Contemporary Examples of pre-empt

  • He'll be briefed on the risks of Iranian retaliation, and he will be offered a menu of options to pre-empt such retaliation.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Romney Won't Fight Iran

    David Frum

    August 30, 2012

  • As a growing number of affiliates threatened to pre-empt the show, Gaspin said he realized “that this was not going to go well.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    Fighting for Conan

    Kim Masters

    January 10, 2010

  • Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Obama's Bad Trip

    Richard Wolffe

    November 18, 2009

  • According to the vice president, we will strive to prevent threats but not pre-empt them.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Joe Biden's Empty Words

    Mark Salter

    February 10, 2009

Historical Examples of pre-empt

  • The aim should be to pre-empt the ground for cleanness and truth.

    The Child in the Midst

    Mary Schauffler Labaree

  • If fortunate to find such, they at once pre-empt the old lodge and make it their home and headquarters.

    Canadian Wilds

    Martin Hunter

  • The favorite rumor was that the entire firm was a decoy to bewilder agents of foreign powers and pre-empt their espionage efforts.

  • So late as 1872 an Indian received special permission to pre-empt one hundred acres.

British Dictionary definitions for pre-empt



(tr) to acquire in advance of or to the exclusion of others; appropriate
(tr) mainly US to occupy (public land) in order to acquire a prior right to purchase
(intr) bridge to make a high opening bid, often on a weak hand, to shut out opposition bidding
Derived Formspre-emptor, nounpre-emptory, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pre-empt

also preempt, 1830, "secure by pre-emtion," back-formation from pre-emption, originally American English. In the broascasting sense, it is attested from 1965, American English, a euphemism for "cancel." Related: pre-empted; preempted.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper