Definition of pre-empt in English:

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Pronunciation: /priˈɛmpt/


[with object]
1Take action in order to prevent (an anticipated event) happening; forestall: the government pre-empted a coup attempt
More example sentences
  • Often the coup is undertaken to pre-empt revolutionary change from below and impose a measure of reform from above.
  • But on this occasion police pre-empted the event and warned drivers to keep away.
  • First, it is clear the authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of last year.
forestall, prevent;
steal a march on, anticipate, get in before
informal get one's retaliation in first
1.1Act in advance of (someone) in order to prevent them doing something: it looked as if she’d ask him more, but Parr pre-empted her
More example sentences
  • He was pre-empted by a question from the audience seeking an explanation as to why the former democratically-elected team had been sacked.
  • But as we were leaving I spotted that our Sales guy had something to add so I quickly pre-empted him.
  • We would like to resolve this amicably but we were pre-empted.
2Acquire or appropriate (something) in advance: many tables were already pre-empted by family parties
More example sentences
  • Community groups are right to complain about the Ontario Municipal Board and the way it pre-empts the land-use decisions of municipal councils while destroying the relative permanence of Official Plans.
commandeer, take possession of, occupy, seize, arrogate, appropriate, take over, take, acquire, secure, reserve
2.1North American Occupy (public land) so as to have a pre-emptive right to buy it before others.
3 [no object] Bridge Make a pre-emptive bid.


A pre-emptive bid.





Mid 19th century: back-formation from pre-emption.

  • It you pre-empt someone, you get there first. The original Latin came from prae ‘in advance’ and emere ‘buy’. Pre-emption (early 17th century) was the earliest form of the word, pre-empt being formed from it. The same root lies behind premium (early 17th century).

Words that rhyme with pre-empt

attempt, contempt, dreamt, exempt, kempt, tempt

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pre-empt

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