pre·​empt | \prē-ˈem(p)t \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from preempt

preemptor \ prē-​ˈem(p)-​tər \ 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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The proposal, according to people who have seen it, would also preempt states from setting their own standards. Coral Davenport And Ana Swanson,, "Are Trump’s policy decisions undermining industries he pledged to help?," 5 July 2018 But the bill would also preempt any municipal and county ordinances already in place on bags. Frank Kummer,, "N.J. poised to impose 5-cent fee on plastic bags, so why aren't environmentalists happy?," 22 June 2018 The resignation preempts what could have been an inglorious departure for someone who was the public face of the advertising industry writ large. Joe Mayes,, "WPP CEO Sorrell Quits After Three Decades at Top of Ad World," 14 Apr. 2018 As usual, Gaffigan's appeal has a lot to do with preempting criticism. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, "' Jim Gaffigan: Noble Ape': Film Review," 12 July 2018 Congress can preempt this by passing legislation of its own that would overrule Flores. Dara Lind, Vox, "The new order replaces family separation with family detention.," 20 June 2018 House Republicans are planning to caucus in December to marshal behind a candidate, an aim at preempting Democratic input. Jasper Scherer, San Antonio Express-News, "Straus’ presence felt at convention despite his absence," 16 June 2018 But disclosing them not only is honest, says UW Director of Research Communications Terry Devitt, but can also preempt animal rights groups like the Milford, Ohio–based Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN). David Grimm, Science | AAAS, "‘A cataclysmic wake-up call’: Can more candor win back support for animal research?," 26 June 2018 Under that plan, the coalition of states led by California — which accounts for more than a third of all vehicles sold nationwide — would be preempted from imposing their own rules. Evan Halper,, "Colorado joins California in fight to prevent Trump from weakening auto emissions rules," 19 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.

See More

First Known Use of preempt

1850, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for preempt

back-formation from preemption

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about preempt

Statistics for preempt

Last Updated

25 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for preempt

The first known use of preempt was in 1850

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for preempt



English Language Learners Definition of preempt

: to prevent (something) from happening

: to take the place of (something)

: to be shown instead of (another television program)


transitive verb
pre·​empt | \prē-ˈempt \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on preempt

What made you want to look up preempt? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!