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

Other Words from prerogative

prerogatived \ pri-​ˈrä-​gə-​tivd How to pronounce prerogative (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.
Recent Examples on the Web In the late 1970s, Jane Goodall’s research on chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania, showed that infanticide wasn’t only a male prerogative: The mother-daughter pair Pom and Passion also attacked the young of others, and ate them. Rebecca Giggs, The Atlantic, 6 May 2022 The initial phase of the civil-rights movement, which stressed integration as the prerequisite for equality, gave way to a strong multiculturalist prerogative in favor of equality in difference. Gideon Lewis-kraus, The New Yorker, 23 Feb. 2022 Wanting to live on the West Coast is a prerogative and a choice, not an insult. Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2022 When House Republicans failed to use the traditional prerogative of a party caucus to strip her of committee assignments, House Democrats used the power of their majority to oust a member of the opposing party from serving on any committee. The Editors, National Review, 27 Apr. 2022 Telling your daughter the truth was your prerogative and in the best interests of your family. Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2022 That's their prerogative and there's a whole lot of different reasons why guys do that. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 19 Apr. 2022 Some recent justices, including Breyer and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have argued against packing the court, and that was their prerogative. Joel Mathis, The Week, 21 Mar. 2022 Skincare products are no longer solely the prerogative of women. The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Apr. 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.

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 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.

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prerogative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on prerogative

Nglish: Translation of prerogative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prerogative for Arabic Speakers


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