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 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 The League is also gearing up for another fight over preemption of short-term rental regulations. Ryan Gillespie,, "Orlando city commissioner, now Florida League of Cities President, to lead fight against preemption," 25 Nov. 2020 Today's remand response did not address preemption of state net neutrality laws. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Pai’s FCC squeezes in one more vote against net neutrality before election," 27 Oct. 2020 Federal preemption protects airlines from enforcement actions by the states. Christopher Elliott Columnist, Washington Post, "Is the government doing enough to protect air travelers?," 21 Oct. 2020 Because the Illinois Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over Route 58, the city had to work out the details of an agreement to install traffic lights, which will include traffic signal preemption for emergency vehicles. Gloria Casas,, "Elgin, IDOT strike deal to install traffic signals at dangerous Route 58/Shady Oaks intersection," 20 Oct. 2020 Reiss said that Ginsburg’s position in this case is in line with her views on preemption in other cases, like Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc. Ella Lee, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent in pharmaceutical case wasn't anti-vaccine," 27 Sep. 2020 Allergan this month filed a motion asking the court to have the litigation dismissed on the grounds of federal preemption, a legal argument that individual lawsuits can't be filed over medical devices the FDA has already approved. Maria Aspan, Fortune, "Three more women have died from cancer linked to Allergan’s recalled breast implants, FDA says," 24 Aug. 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

24 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Preemption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 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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