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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1Australian, North American, NZ 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2The action of pre-empting or forestalling, especially of making a pre-emptive attack.

    ‘damaging retaliation for any attempt at pre-emption’
    • ‘Any doctrine of pre-emption must rest on certain knowledge of an immediate attack.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘True, there may be a tolerance of pre-emption if an attack is imminent.’
    • ‘This is not retribution but pre-emption, finding appropriate force to prevent a further attack.’
    • ‘He summarized much legal and philosophical argument by specifying four criteria of preemption as self-defense.’
    • ‘Is there a policy about pre-emption that we are prepared to apply consistently?’


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