pre·​rog·​a·​tive pri-ˈrä-gə-tiv How to pronounce prerogative (audio)
: an exclusive or special right, power, or privilege: such as
: one belonging to an office or an official body
: one belonging to a person, group, or class of individuals
: one possessed by a nation as an attribute of sovereignty
: the discretionary power inhering in the British Crown
: a distinctive excellence
prerogatived adjective

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In ancient Rome, voting at legal assemblies was done by group, with the majority in a group determining the vote. The group chosen to vote first on an issue was called the praerogātīva, a word rooted in Latin rogāre, “to ask; to ask an assembly for a decision.” When English adopted prerogative from Latin, via Anglo-French, in the 15th century, it took only the idea of the privilege the ancient Roman voting group enjoyed; the English word referred then, as it also does now, to an exclusive or special right, power, or privilege. Often such a prerogative is tied to an office, official body, or nation, but as Bobby Brown reminded us in his 1988 song “My Prerogative,” the right to live as you like can also be referred to as a prerogative.

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web He’s also been clear that if members of the public don’t want to forgive him, that is their prerogative. Jill Filipovic, CNN, 29 Nov. 2022 While appointments to the intelligence panel are the prerogative of the speaker, the action on Omar requires a House vote. Lisa Mascaro, Fortune, 2 Feb. 2023 Appointments to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, unlike most other House committees, are within the prerogative of the speaker. Billy House,, 25 Jan. 2023 Unlike most committees, appointments to the Intelligence panel are the prerogative of the speaker, with input from the minority leader. CBS News, 24 Jan. 2023 Such confusion is certainly the prerogative of — and even welcomed in — a film as dense as this one. Vulture, 20 July 2022 Instead of existing solely as an identity for the artist in question to inhabit, the destruction of binary gender ideas can be a prerogative. Jason P. Frank, Vulture, 28 Dec. 2022 That meant an immediate overhaul in many areas, which was McDaniels’ prerogative. Michael Silver, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Dec. 2022 The government cited the buyback program as an area where that prerogative could be applied. Amanda Coletta, Anchorage Daily News, 2 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


Middle English prerogatif, prerogative, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin praerogātīva "the century (Roman voting unit) 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.

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near prerogative

Cite this Entry

“Prerogative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


pre·​rog·​a·​tive pri-ˈräg-ət-iv How to pronounce prerogative (audio)
: a special right or privilege given because of one's rank or position

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