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 preempt (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 only way to combat a true issue of availability is to preempt it. Jens Gamperl, Forbes, 11 May 2021 Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs is seeking to preempt any federal attempt to create a COVID-19 vaccine passport. Cole Lauterbach, Washington Examiner, 12 Apr. 2021 McConnell makes one final constitutional observation, to preempt a possible objection to his view, before pivoting to a discussion of the politics of the recent impeachment. Jason Lee Steorts, National Review, 15 May 2021 For the reasons expressed in Noem, the appellate court concluded that IGRA does not expressly preempt the state’s excise tax. Roxanne Bland, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2021 Several sources described the indictment as a procedural move, meant to skip a preliminary hearing and hopefully preempt potential speedy-trial issues in Weinstein’s case. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2021 The PRO Act would preempt state right-to-work laws. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2021 For example, if the federal laws the bills are intended to block specifically give state and local officials the authority for enforcement, that would probably preempt any state law that sought to block enforcement by those officials. Mike Cason |, al, 27 Mar. 2021 All the evidence of racist sentiment in the Jan. 6 crowd should have been enough to preempt Carlson’s whitewashing of the event. Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for preempt

Time Traveler

The first known use of preempt was in 1850

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Statistics for preempt

Last Updated

3 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Preempt.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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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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