Empt or emptive does not exist as a word, and I suppose never has.

Pre-empt and pre-emptive according to the OED have their origin in Australian land deals of the late-eighteenth century, where certain individuals were given pre-emtive rights over others.

But why empt? Does anyone know any more about the origins of pre-emptive.


2 Answers 2


emption (n.) late 15c., "purchase," from Latin emptionem (nominative emptio) "a buying, purchasing; thing bought," noun of action from past participle stem of emere "to buy"

Originally used to describe something being offered for purchase to a group or individual before being offered publicly.


"Pre-emptive," as we know it, seems to come from the Latin verb emption-, emptio, from emptus (past participle of emere to buy). See the definition here.

The wikipedia entry of Pre-emption right states that this usage comes from "A right to acquire existing property in preference to any other person... usually referred to as a right of first refusal." It seems as though "pre-emptive" began as just meaning "right to first refusal" and morphed into a more general "right to first action" as time went on.

  • Very good. I was not aware of emptio and emere. I now note the English word emption in the OED and the French verb préempter.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 20:12

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