pref·​er·​ence | \ˈpre-fərn(t)s, ˈpre-f(ə-)rən(t)s\

Definition of preference 

1a : the act of preferring : the state of being preferred

b : the power or opportunity of choosing

2 : one that is preferred

3 : the act, fact, or principle of giving advantages to some over others

4 : priority in the right to demand and receive satisfaction of an obligation

5 : orientation sense 2b sexual preference

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Choose the Right Synonym for preference

choice, option, alternative, preference, selection, election mean the act or opportunity of choosing or the thing chosen. choice suggests the opportunity or privilege of choosing freely. freedom of choice option implies a power to choose that is specifically granted or guaranteed. the option of paying now or later alternative implies a need to choose one and reject another possibility. equally attractive alternatives preference suggests a choice guided by one's judgment or predilections. a preference for cool weather selection implies a range of choice. a varied selection of furniture election implies an end or purpose which requires exercise of judgment. doing a tax return forces certain elections on you

Examples of preference in a Sentence

Car buyers have recently shown a growing preference for smaller vehicles. When it comes to music, everyone has their own preferences. Some people like small cars and some people like big cars. It's a matter of personal preference. She listed her favorite restaurants in order of preference. He has tried not to show preference in giving out jobs. The policy of the school is to give preference to minority candidates. “We could go to an Italian or Chinese restaurant tonight. What's your preference?” “Either one is fine. I don't have a preference.”
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Recent Examples on the Web

These states argued that their slave populations should count towards their allocation of seats in the House and the weight given to their preferences when choosing a president; the other states resisted. The Economist, "America’s electoral system gives the Republicans advantages over Democrats," 12 July 2018 The report suggests that their preference for where to live is having a bigger impact than their views on homeownership itself. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Why aren’t millennials buying houses?," 11 July 2018 The team moves later that day from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. to Briscoe Park, off Lenora Church Road, to continue the conversation about Snellville’s future, surveying park-goers on their preferences for the city’s future growth. Karen Huppertz, ajc, "Citizens invited to share ideas at two upcoming Snellville events," 7 July 2018 Merkel has repeatedly stated her preference for European solutions to migration issues. Jefferson Chase, USA TODAY, "German government crisis: Chancellor Angela Merkel gets migrant compromise," 3 July 2018 The feature would allow users to freely use multiple languages without going into settings and adjusting their language preference. Carson Kessler, Fortune, "Google Home Now Speaks Spanish," 27 June 2018 If no candidate gains a majority, the votes from the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes get redistributed to their supporters’ second and third preferences. Dominic Fracassa, San Francisco Chronicle, "SF ranked-choice mayoral election cliffhanger echoes Oakland’s 2010 balloting," 9 June 2018 Those preferences are clear in the players Louisville is pursuing, and the message appears to have gained some traction. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "With Josh Nickelberry in place, what's next for Louisville recruiting?," 4 June 2018 If elevated, the judge would pose an existential threat to the government’s ability to regulate for the common good and further twist the First Amendment beyond recognition, using it as a sword to advance his personal political preferences. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Yale Law Students and Alumni Denounce School's Support of Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018

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

1673, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for preference

Middle English preferraunce, from Middle French preferance, from Medieval Latin praeferentia, from Latin praeferent-, praeferens, present participle of praeferre

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Last Updated

5 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for preference

The first known use of preference was in 1673

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More Definitions for preference



English Language Learners Definition of preference

: a feeling of liking or wanting one person or thing more than another person or thing

: an advantage that is given to some people or things and not to others

: something that is liked or wanted more than another thing : something that is preferred


pref·​er·​ence | \ˈpre-fə-rəns, ˈpref-rəns\

Kids Definition of preference

1 : a choosing of or special liking for one person or thing rather than another or others Buyers are showing a preference for small cars.

2 : the power or chance to choose : choice I gave him his preference.

3 : a person or thing that is liked or wanted more than another My preference is to travel by train.


pref·​er·​ence | \ˈpre-frəns, -fə-rəns \

Legal Definition of preference 

1 : the right to prior payment of a debt with preference over the creditors of the heirs or legateesLouisiana Civil Code

2 : the transfer of an insolvent debtor's interest in property to a creditor for an earlier debt that gives the creditor more than the creditor would otherwise receive (as under a bankruptcy settlement)

called also voidable preference

— compare antecedent debt at debt, fraudulent conveyance, general assignment at assignment

Note: Preferences can be voided by a bankruptcy trustee because they diminish the bankruptcy estate out of which other creditors will be paid. Preferences must be made during a period (as 90 days before the date of filing a bankruptcy petition) established by bankruptcy law in order to be voidable. Perfection or grant of a security interest during this period is also a preference. The bankruptcy law states exceptions under which payments to creditors are not voidable preferences.

3 : priority

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Comments on preference

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


playful or foolish behavior

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