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pre·empt / prēˈempt/ • v. [tr.] 1. take action in order to prevent (an anticipated event) from happening; forestall: the government preempted a coup attempt. ∎  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. ∎  (of a broadcast) interrupt or replace (a scheduled program): the violence preempted regular programming.2. acquire or appropriate (something) in advance: many tables were already preempted by family parties. ∎  take (something, esp. public land) for oneself so as to have the right of preemption.3. [intr.] Bridge make a preemptive bid.• n. Bridge a preemptive bid.DERIVATIVES: pre·emp·tor / -tər/ n.