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.

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 Then, taking unusual and dramatic judicial prerogative, McFadden summoned special counsel prosecutors, including top Jan. 6 investigator Thomas Windom, into his courtroom to explain the matter at the bench, out of public earshot. Robert Legare, CBS News, 21 July 2023 Instead, liberalism’s foundational credo is that each community — and each person within each community — has the prerogative to devise and realize their own conception of the good. Becca Rothfeld, Washington Post, 28 July 2023 In 1838, the apparent goods of clearing Georgetown College’s debts and producing funds to advance the Jesuit order’s prerogatives in this country were used to justify the sale of human beings, even as voices within the Church maintained that such a practice was against their mission. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, 27 June 2023 These questions could get messy — for example, how to balance the first family’s emotional needs against the political imperatives of long-term advisers eager to stay in power and (in some cases) preserve their own prerogatives. Joseph J. Fins, STAT, 29 Aug. 2023 Two such goods are child welfare and parental prerogatives. David McGarry, National Review, 15 Aug. 2023 In other words, rather than concentration, the security forces may see further fragmentation, with rival factions vying for new prerogatives and powers. Tatiana Stanovaya, Foreign Affairs, 8 Aug. 2023 The shame is that in the meantime federal law will continue to elevate tribal prerogatives and racial criteria above the welfare of vulnerable Native American children. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 19 June 2023 The idea is ridiculous, un-American, an affront to the prerogatives of a free people. Heather Wilhelm, National Review, 10 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prerogative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 2 Oct. 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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