pre·​rog·​a·​tive | \ pri-ˈrä-gə-tiv How to pronounce prerogative (audio) \

Definition of prerogative

1a : an exclusive or special right, power, or privilege: such as
(1) : one belonging to an office or an official body
(2) : one belonging to a person, group, or class of individuals
(3) : one possessed by a nation as an attribute of sovereignty
b : the discretionary power inhering in the British Crown
2 : a distinctive excellence

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Other Words from prerogative

prerogatived \ pri-​ˈrä-​gə-​tivd How to pronounce prerogatived (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for prerogative


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In ancient Rome, voting at legal assemblies was done by group, with the majority in a group determining its vote. The group chosen to vote first on an issue was called the "praerogativa" (that term traces to a verb meaning "to ask for an opinion before another"). Because the first vote was considered to be of great importance, Latin speakers also used the noun "praerogativa" to mean "preference" and later "privilege." As "praerogativa" passed through Anglo-French and Middle English, its spelling shifted to create the noun we know today.

Examples of prerogative in a Sentence

That sense that the future may not last for long is often assumed to be a prerogative of youth, the dialectical complement of another misconception the young are noted for—the conviction that they are immortal. — Thomas M. Disch, Atlantic, February 1992 More important than any of this, he offered himself as an incarnation of constitutional propriety so that, temperamentally stubborn, he was careful never to exceed the limits of a prerogative overexploited by the later Stuarts. — Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, 1988 The secularization of the Presidency is indispensable for the reassertion of congressional and popular prerogative. — Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Cycles of American History, 1986 If you'd rather sell the tickets than use them, that's your prerogative. It's a writer's prerogative to decide the fate of her characters.
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Recent Examples on the Web This young bride is exercising her prerogative to change her mind at the very last minute. New York Times, "A Bride Changes Her Mind," 13 Nov. 2020 State legislatures can prohibit local entities from participating in direct federal-grant programs that usurp their traditional prerogative. Derek Cohen, National Review, "The Biden-Harris Antipathy toward Guns Portends Trouble for Law Enforcement," 25 Oct. 2020 At the time, the Vatican (exercising its usual prerogative) struck the comments about civil unions before clearing the footage for release to Televisa. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "Pope Francis Supports Same-Sex Civil Unions, but the Church Must Do More," 25 Oct. 2020 With Friday’s appeal, Ms. Vestager is seeking clarity on the limits of competition law regarding taxation, which is a national prerogative in the EU. Valentina Pop, WSJ, "Apple Faces Prolonged $15 Billion Tax Battle as EU Appeals," 25 Sep. 2020 Licking is the prerogative of those not old enough for margaritas — and, even then, it is limited to Popsicles, lollipops and other inherently silly foods. Washington Post, "Miss Manners: Margarita drinker thinks he’s tasting a lollipop," 8 Oct. 2020 In a filing to the court, in March, the states opposing the Sacklers’ settlement terms argued that such treatment at the hands of the legal system appears to be an exclusive prerogative of the wealthy. Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, "The Sackler Family’s Plan to Keep Its Billions," 4 Oct. 2020 Alameda County, like San Francisco, is exercising its prerogative to maintain stricter rules. Nora Mishanec,, "S.F. protests state coronavirus rank as three Bay Area counties move to red tier," 22 Sep. 2020 Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Ginsburg's successor was Trump's prerogative, regardless of the timing. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "'Follow your conscience': Biden implores Senate Republicans to wait on election to fill Ginsburg seat," 21 Sep. 2020

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for prerogative

Middle English prerogatif, prerogative, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin praerogātīva "the Roman century on which the lot fell to vote first, the verdict of that century (seen as predicting the outcome of the whole vote), omen, prior choice, prior right or claim," (short for centuria praerogātīva "century voting first"), from feminine of praerogātīvus "appointed by lot to vote first," from prae- pre- + rogātus, past participle of rogāre "to ask, ask (an assembly for a decision)" + -īvus -ive — more at rogation

Note: Latin praerogātīvus was probably formed in the manner indicated, rather than as a derivative of praerogāre "to ask or propose beforehand, pay in advance," not attested before the 4th century A.D.

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The first known use of prerogative was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

24 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prerogative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2020.

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How to pronounce prerogative (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prerogative

formal : a right or privilege especially : a special right or privilege that some people have

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