Definition of pre-emption in English:



mass noun
  • 1The purchase of goods or shares by one person or party before the opportunity is offered to others.

    ‘the commission had the right of pre-emption’
    • ‘Mrs. Clarke would prefer this to be a right of pre-emption and that if the Purchaser exercises its right completion will take place twenty eight days thereafter.’
    • ‘The importance attached by institutional shareholders to their pre-emption rights is demonstrated by the supplementary rules, which they have sponsored, applying to such issues.’
    • ‘In pre-emption articles, it is usual to find, as here, a permitted class of transferee or a provision for transfer to a non-member in the event that no existing member is willing to purchase the shares.’
    • ‘I needed to sort out a way of creating pre-emption provisions and to retain control.’
    1. 1.1NZ, North American, Australian historical The right to purchase public land before the opportunity is offered to others.
      • ‘Increased land sales and pre-emption laws (which authorised settlers to stake claims on most surveyed lands) had facilitated rapid settlement of the Midwest and the Old Southwest.’
      • ‘It is argued that taxation by pre-emption - the monopoly purchase of land by the Crown for resale at inflated prices - was in substance if not form, a kind of capital gains tax on Maori land owners.’
      • ‘The table below shows how, as the Crown's policy of pre-emption took effect, the burden of providing revenue fell upon Maori to finance the colony's development.’
      • ‘The right of pre-emption or exclusive purchase in the same article was used by the Crown to lawfully extinguish Maori customary title and thereby allow alienation.’
  • 2The action of pre-empting or forestalling, especially of making a pre-emptive attack.

    ‘damaging retaliation for any attempt at pre-emption’
    • ‘Is there a policy about pre-emption that we are prepared to apply consistently?’
    • ‘Patriots, of whatever social provenance, would never accept any action likely to damage prospects of victory, and might well attempt pre-emption if such an action were anticipated.’
    • ‘He summarized much legal and philosophical argument by specifying four criteria of preemption as self-defense.’
    • ‘This is not retribution but pre-emption, finding appropriate force to prevent a further attack.’
    • ‘True, there may be a tolerance of pre-emption if an attack is imminent.’
    • ‘Any doctrine of pre-emption must rest on certain knowledge of an immediate attack.’


Early 17th century: from medieval Latin praeemptio(n-), from the verb praeemere, from prae ‘in advance’ + emere ‘buy’.