Definition of preempt in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Take action in order to prevent (an anticipated event) from happening; forestall.

    ‘the government preempted a coup attempt’
    • ‘Hedging or pre-empting foreign currency exposure is an ideal way to protect profitability.’
    • ‘Why don't these guys just talk and write like normal people in the first place, and thus pre-empt the ‘media misunderstandings’ they're always complaining about?’
    • ‘But on this occasion police pre-empted the event and warned drivers to keep away.’
    • ‘For this campaign Soviet troops used parachute formations on a large scale to occupy the ports of Dairen and Port Arthur to pre-empt an anticipated American landing.’
    • ‘Or, they may have decided to locate a store in Vancouver not because they believe they can make a profit there, but to pre-empt any of their global competitors from gaining the market share that Vancouver represents.’
    • ‘Naturally, the conversation turned towards the difficulties of dedicating time to the demands of competitive yacht racing, pre-empted by the pressure of official duties.’
    • ‘Of course, the media is always trying to pre-empt events, but where there is smoke there is fire.’
    • ‘We don't want to pre-empt anything that people might want to do,’ said Mrs Taylor.’
    • ‘The intent is to be able to quickly pre-empt disasters like the outbreak of mad cow disease that struck Europe during the '90s.’
    • ‘Often the coup is undertaken to pre-empt revolutionary change from below and impose a measure of reform from above.’
    • ‘Although I am not sure, I believe legislation thus pre-empts any attempt to recover additional damages through a lawsuit.’
    • ‘So the agencies hope to pre-empt Congress, in part to preserve their own discretion.’
    • ‘France's move is intended to pre-empt such action.’
    • ‘First, it is clear the authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of last year.’
    • ‘The last thing the nation needed was for its Prime Minister to pre-empt such a debate by writing his own preamble.’
    forestall, prevent
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Act in advance of (someone) in order to prevent them from doing something.
      ‘it looked as if she'd ask him more, but Parr preempted her’
      • ‘Kirby sensed that Jason was about to negatively comment, so she pre-empted him with a warning remark to be nice.’
      • ‘We would like to resolve this amicably but we were pre-empted.’
      • ‘But as we were leaving I spotted that our Sales guy had something to add so I quickly pre-empted him.’
      • ‘However, once again he was pre-empted when the earl of Arran (heir to the Stewart succession) was proclaimed governor of Scotland on 3 January 1543.’
      • ‘Velised pre-empted him, causing an ‘accident’ that killed my mother and my brother Daniel.’
      • ‘He was pre-empted by a question from the audience seeking an explanation as to why the former democratically-elected team had been sacked.’
      • ‘However, the giant pre-empted him by the simple expedient of hauling the prostrate felon off the ground by his hair and then dropping him when Grundle had scrambled clear.’
      • ‘Being a thoroughly honest person, I thought it would be wise to pre-empt any observant readers of this site, particularly the ones with long memories, who might recall an entry I posted here nearly eight months ago.’
      • ‘The central bank apparently decided to pre-empt the politicians, but the move has raised doubts about the true degree of its independence.’
      • ‘Two translations of De Magnete appeared; although Thompson began first, he was pre-empted by P Fleury Mottelay's 1893 edition.’
      • ‘The company's spring meeting was the occasion for the shareholders to pre-empt the governing board by throwing down the gauntlet on finance and management of services.’
      • ‘I have not seen anything in the Minister's comments that suggest he was pre-empting anyone.’
    2. 1.2North American (of a broadcast) interrupt or replace (a scheduled program)
      ‘the violence preempted regular programming’
      • ‘In essence, you tell the unit, ‘I watch this show,’ and it does the rest, monitoring when an episode is a re-run or has been pre-empted for the week and acting accordingly.’
      • ‘If special programming pre-empted the news shows' broadcast in New York City, transcripts were analyzed when available.’
      • ‘Werden also said that the station will be pre-empting or running special editions of their regular programming in favour of women centred content.’
      • ‘When they arrived at the studio, Johnny and Sarah were put in a dressing room, where Miss Roc explained that the scheduled show was being pre-empted for them.’
      • ‘I'm hoping for January 21, thus ensuring that the premiere of America Idol 2 will be pre-empted for war coverage, and I won't be forced to watch it with Natalie.’
      • ‘That live broadcast pre-empted Seven's Sunday Sunrise, giving Michael Pascoe a day off.’
  • 2Acquire or appropriate (something) in advance.

    ‘many tables were already preempted by family parties’
    • ‘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
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    1. 2.1North American Take (something, especially public land) for oneself so as to have the right of preemption.
  • 3Bridge
    no object Make a preemptive bid.


  • A preemptive bid.


Mid 19th century: back-formation from preemption.