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

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 Monsanto appealed the district court’s evidentiary and FIFRA preemption rulings. Glenn G. Lammi, Forbes, 1 June 2022 More than 40 states currently have preemption statutes on the books, versus just two in the 1970s, according to Joseph Blocher, co-director of Duke University's Center for Firearms Law. Neil Weinberg,, 28 May 2022 As to the service providers' field preemption argument, Supreme Court authority, the case law of this circuit, and various provisions of the Communications Act itself all foreclose that argument. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 5 May 2022 Without preemption laws, there is a chance that other local governments will follow suit. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 23 Mar. 2022 Arizona's 2020 law -- the first natural gas preemption law of its kind -- was a harbinger of what was to come. Ella Nilsen, CNN, 17 Feb. 2022 Louisiana passed preemption paid sick and family leave laws in 2012. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 23 Mar. 2022 The preemption holding did not resolve the case, however. Glenn G. Lammi, Forbes, 6 Dec. 2021 The preemption also gave way to yet another counterprogramming effort by WWE as FS1 aired a replay of SmackDown to go head-to-head with Rampage. Alfred Konuwa, Forbes, 1 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of preemption was in 1602

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Last Updated

4 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Preemption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on preemption

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


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