5

We can describe something as pre-emptive, no issue there.

If something isn't such, how can we write that? Word gives me red squiggles on 'Non-preemptive', but this looks silly with a double hyphenation.

Which leads me to wonder why 'pre-emptive' is hyphenated anyway? 'Emptive' isn't a word, and other 'pre' prefixes aren't hyphenated (e.g. prefix, predecessor).

  • 1
    If it isn't preemptive, it's reactive – Andy Jun 10 '14 at 17:08
  • 1
    @OllieFord For the computer science term I'd use nonpreemptive multitasking. – Elliott Frisch Jun 10 '14 at 17:15
  • 4
    emptor is a word for buyer, emption is a word for buying. Neither in common use these days except for caveat emptor. Pre-emptor (or preemptor) is someone who has struck a deal to buy something before it is offered to the general public. I imagine (which why this isn't an answer) is that empt became the part of the word preempt to mean 'prior action' not just buying stuff. – Frank Jun 10 '14 at 17:16
  • 2
    Ollie Ford, the spelling seems to be a US/UK difference. See the Hyphens section at the bottom of the page, at this link lukemastin.com/testing/spelling/cgi-bin/… – Tristan r Jun 10 '14 at 17:36
  • 1
    @Andy - Ironically, in computing, pre-emptive operating systems are more reactive than non-preemptive ones! :) – GreenAsJade Jun 15 '14 at 10:10
2

There are two possibile ways to describe something that is not pre-emptive.

1) Non-preemptive.

This is used in computing. In this context, the choice of hypenation appears arbitrary. A simple google seach for nonpreemptive operating system shows that one hyphen is the most common choice. "Non-preemptive operating systems are not a good choice in a situation where reaction time is important".

2) Reactive or reactionary.

This is used in a military context. "They decided not to make a pre-emptive strike. As a result, their strikes, when they finally responded to provocation, were reactionary, and all too late..."

  • +1, all good stuff. I would simply add that the preventive/reactive dichotomy exists in other fields than the military example given, such as medicine and maintenance. – naughtilus Jul 9 '14 at 11:46
0

First, I wouldn't hypenate preemptive and Webster's and other lexicographers googled tended to agree (but see Cambridge and Oxford).

And, I thought pre-emptor was the best answer.

But your reference to "emptive" or "empt" led me to a thesis. Empt is listed in Webster's as Definition of empt ++ -ed/-ing/-s ++ now dialectal : empty.

Agreeing with another response, the opposite of preempt is react. To react is to respond to a causal act. To prempt is to respond without, or in advance of, a causal act -- a response to empty or nothing.

BTW, I got here after having used "post-emptive" facetiously to describe conduct.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.