pre·​empt | \ prē-ˈem(p)t How to pronounce preempt (audio) \
preempted; preempting; preempts

Definition of preempt

transitive verb

1 : to acquire (something, such as land) by preemption
2 : to seize upon to the exclusion of others : take for oneself the movement was then preempted by a lunatic fringe
3a : to replace with something considered to be of greater value or priority : take precedence over the program did not appear, having been preempted by a baseball game— Robert MacNeil
b law : to replace or supersede (a law) or bar (an action) by the doctrine of preemption In so doing, the Court held that Congress did not intend to preempt common law contract claims.Charas v. Trans World Airlines, Inc.
4 : to gain a commanding or preeminent place in
5 : to prevent from happening or taking place : forestall, preclude

intransitive verb

: to make a preemptive bid in bridge

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Other Words from preempt

preemptor \ prē-​ˈem(p)-​tər How to pronounce preemptor (audio) \ noun

Examples of preempt in a Sentence

The contract preempts lawsuits by the company's clients. The state law was preempted by a federal law. The President's speech preempted regular programming.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The commission is set to vote this month on a proposal that would preempt San Francisco’s law, which says landlords can’t deny internet service providers access to existing wiring within buildings. Sophia Kunthara,, "Federal Communications Commission, Congress spar over San Francisco broadband law," 1 July 2019 De León, who is running for Los Angeles City Council, introduced legislation in 2016 that preempted parts of Proposition 63 by simplifying the background check process. Patrick Mcgreevy,, "After cop’s death, Gov. Gavin Newsom says he supports expanding ‘red flag’ gun laws," 25 June 2019 Mining interests challenged the ban in a lawsuit that argued the state restrictions should be preempted by the federal Atomic Energy Act, which promotes and regulates the use of nuclear energy. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Supreme Court Backs Virginia Ban on Uranium Mining," 17 June 2019 Ultimately, the industry's goal is to pass privacy laws at a federal level that preempt all of the state laws, including California's. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "New York's Privacy Bill Is Even Bolder Than California's," 4 June 2019 The Stanley Cup playoffs preempted the show last week, so the Cincinnati qualifiers will air Monday, July 8. Cameron Knight,, "Cincinnati's 'American Ninja Warrior' episode delayed," 17 June 2019 But state attorneys general who sued the FCC over its net neutrality decision argue that the FCC can't preempt states in cases where the FCC has given up its own authority to regulate. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "FCC forces California to drop plan for government fees on text messages," 17 Dec. 2018 The broadband industry lawsuit asks the court to rule that both the Vermont law and executive order are preempted by federal law. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Entire broadband industry sues Vermont to stop state net neutrality law," 19 Oct. 2018 Nichols believes the fines are already preempted by state law, which limits the fines the Beach's zoning board can impose to $1,000 per day for the first violation and $5,000 per day for the repeat violation. Chabeli Herrera, miamiherald, "Miami Beach has the country's highest short-term rental fines. It just got sued.," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'preempt.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of preempt

1850, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for preempt

back-formation from preemption

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Statistics for preempt

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for preempt

The first known use of preempt was in 1850

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More Definitions for preempt



English Language Learners Definition of preempt

formal : to prevent (something) from happening
formal : to take the place of (something)
US : to be shown instead of (another television program)


transitive verb
pre·​empt | \ prē-ˈempt How to pronounce preempt (audio) \

Legal Definition of preempt

1a : to acquire (land) by preemption
b : to seize upon to the exclusion of others : take for oneself a senior user of a trademark could not preempt use of the mark in remote geographical marketsMesa Springs Enterprises v. Cutco Indus., 736 P.2d 1251 (1986)
2a : to replace or supersede (a law) by preemption such state laws are not preempted by the federal Energy Reorganization Act of 1974National Law Journal
b : to preclude or bar (an action) by preemption federal airline deregulation does not preempt claims under state contract lawNational Law Journal

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More from Merriam-Webster on preempt

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with preempt

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for preempt

Spanish Central: Translation of preempt

Nglish: Translation of preempt for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of preempt for Arabic Speakers

Comments on preempt

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