pre·​emp·​tive | \ prē-ˈem(p)-tiv How to pronounce preemptive (audio) \

Definition of preemptive

1a : of or relating to preemption
b : having power to preempt
2 of a bid in bridge : higher than necessary and intended to shut out bids by the opponents
3 : giving a stockholder first option to purchase new stock in an amount proportionate to his existing holdings
4 : marked by the seizing of the initiative : initiated by oneself a preemptive attack

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Other Words from preemptive

preemptively adverb

Examples of preemptive in a Sentence

The country took preemptive action against the perceived enemy. a preemptive attack by the army
Recent Examples on the Web Some are taking preemptive measures to postpone further phases of their reopening, while others have rolled back their phases to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Jessica Flores, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus updates: California Capitol closes after outbreak; Florida orders 'brick and mortar' schools to open; 130,000 US deaths," 8 July 2020 Abe said the government would consider the possibility of acquiring preemptive strike capability, a controversial plan that critics say would violate Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution. Washington Post, "Japan confirms its scrapping US missile defense system," 25 June 2020 Freezing the bike and ride shares that protesters rely on seemed not just punitive but trickily preemptive on the authorities’ part. Zoë Hu, The New Republic, "A Fragile Answer to the Question of “Whose Streets?”," 10 June 2020 To reopen their economies more quickly and more widely, other countries are moving to aggressive, preemptive testing. Garrett M. Graff, Wired, "A Better Jobs Report Belies America's Breadlines," 5 June 2020 Beyond potential heart trouble, experts are afraid that advertising the drugs’ potential may encourage others to bypass doctors and use malaria drugs on their own as a preemptive strike against COVID-19. Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, "The hydroxychloroquine debate: Why is the malaria drug in the news and what do we know about it?," 6 Apr. 2020 This truism of an age when jihadist terror fuels nativist bigotry and preemptive wars swell the ranks of millenarian caliphates is also the structuring irony of Anyuru’s narrative. Julian Lucas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 25 Nov. 2019 This preemptive narrowing of the credit box excludes people who might be able to qualify. NBC News, "Why it's suddenly more difficult to get a mortgage," 1 Apr. 2020 As of Monday, 16 people are believed to have died from COVID-19 in Oregon, and more than 600 people have preemptive positive test results. oregonlive, "Coronavirus in Oregon: TriMet says one operator in Beaverton bus facility has coronavirus," 31 Mar. 2020

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

1855, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for preemptive

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The first known use of preemptive was in 1855

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Last Updated

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Preemptive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for preemptive


How to pronounce preemptive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of preemptive

: done to stop an unwanted act by another group, country, etc., from happening


pre·​emp·​tive | \ prē-ˈemp-tiv How to pronounce preemptive (audio) \

Legal Definition of preemptive

: of or relating to preemption

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More from Merriam-Webster on preemptive

Spanish Central: Translation of preemptive

Nglish: Translation of preemptive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of preemptive for Arabic Speakers

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