pre·​emp·​tion | \ prē-ˈem(p)-shən How to pronounce preemption (audio) \

Definition of preemption

1a : the right of purchasing before others especially : one given by the government to the actual settler upon a tract of public land
b : the purchase of something under this right
2 : a prior seizure or appropriation : a taking possession before others
3a : a doctrine in law according to which federal law supersedes state law when federal law is in conflict with a state law Even without an express provision for preemption, we have found that state law must yield to a congressional Act in at least two circumstances.Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council

called also federal preemption

b : a doctrine in law according to which the legislation of a superior government (such as a state government) supersedes that of an inferior government (such as a municipal government) in conflicts of law
4 : a policy of launching a preemptive attack in order to prevent a suspected imminent attack

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Examples of preemption in a Sentence

longtime residents resented the preemption of their urban neighborhood by this influx of affluent yuppies
Recent Examples on the Web The local governments and officials did not challenge the underlying 1987 preemption law but contended the penalties in the 2011 law were unconstitutional. Jim Saunders,, "Cities and counties want Florida Supreme Court to rule on 2011 gun law that was challenged after Parkland shooting," 26 Apr. 2021 Courts have found that even where a federal statute is silent on state tax authority, an implied preemption can nevertheless exist. Roxanne Bland, Forbes, "Native Americans And State Taxes: Not For The Faint Of Heart," 15 Apr. 2021 Hoff said the Indiana Counties group shared similar concerns on the natural gas preemption bill, adding that local officials are elected by citizens to provide an appropriate level of regulatory authority to protect citizens. Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, "'Like a hostage negotiation': Indiana bill on renewable energy standards dies after pushback," 15 Apr. 2021 Countries like the Philippines and Japan might not be so receptive to providing that permission in the future, and the bases in question would be vulnerable to preemption at the onset of war. Loren Thompson, Forbes, "Air Power Advocates Are Attacking Army Long-Range Strike Plans. Here’s Why They’re Wrong.," 12 Apr. 2021 The state passed its preemption law prohibiting a city’s right to regulate gun ownership in 2003, four years after a pair of gunmen killed a dozen students and a teacher at Columbine High School, about 40 miles southeast of here. Washington Post, "A city that tried to regulate guns," 25 Mar. 2021 The bill would create a process within the attorney general’s office for investigating complaints related to that preemption and any entity that violated that rule could lose state dollars. Taylor Stevens, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah House committee advances bill to block cities and counties from creating firearm regulations," 22 Feb. 2021 Florida Senate Democrats demanded Thursday that Gov. Ron DeSantis lift his preemption of local governments’ capacities to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, such as mask mandates, to avoid mass layoffs and the collapse of the state’s economy. John Haughey, Washington Examiner, "Senate Democrats demand DeSantis act to save Florida's economy," 11 Dec. 2020 San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties are enacting the orders as a preemption to a new state stay-at-home order, which could take effect across the rest of the Bay Area in mid-December. Shwanika Narayan,, "Here’s what the Bay Area and California stay-at-home orders mean for grocery shopping," 4 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'preemption.' 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 preemption

1602, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for preemption

Medieval Latin praeemption-, praeemptio previous purchase, from praeemere to buy before, from Latin prae- pre- + emere to buy — more at redeem

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Time Traveler for preemption

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The first known use of preemption was in 1602

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Last Updated

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Preemption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for preemption


pre·​emp·​tion | \ prē-ˈemp-shən How to pronounce preemption (audio) \

Legal Definition of preemption

1a : the right of purchasing before others : preemptive right
b : a right to purchase a tract of public land before others that was given by the government to the actual occupant of the land

Note: This sense of preemption is primarily of historical importance.

2 : a doctrine in conflicts of law: when a superior government (as of a state) has undertaken to regulate a subject its laws supersede those of an inferior government (as of a municipality)

Note: According to the doctrine of preemption, federal law supersedes state law when federal law is in conflict with a state law on a subject or when there is congressional intent to regulate a subject to the exclusion of the states. Federal preemption is based on the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and is closely related to the powers granted Congress in the commerce clause.

3 : an act or instance of preempting

History and Etymology for preemption

Medieval Latin praeemption- praeemptio previous purchase, from praeemere to buy before

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More from Merriam-Webster on preemption

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for preemption

Britannica English: Translation of preemption for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about preemption

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