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Premier and Premiere

Commonly Confused Words

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As an adjective, premier means first in rank or importance. The noun premier refers to a prime minister, or the head of a state, province, or territory. The noun premiere refers to the first performance (of a play, for example). Premiere is similarly used as a verb, meaning to give a first public performance.

Examples:

  • The G-20 serves as the premier forum on matters pertaining to the international financial system.

  • The prime minister was briefed on the case before meeting the Spanish premier.

  • The Bayreuth Festival began with the world premiere of the Ring cycle in 1876.

Usage Notes:

  • "If you want to remember the difference between premier and premiere, you might associate the one that ends with an e with entertainment--an opening of a movie or play. If the word needed in a certain passage doesn't have to do with an opening, you know it should be premier--the word without the e at the end."
    (Brian S. Brooks, et al., Working With Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006)

  • "In entertainment contexts, the verb premiere has become the standard way of saying 'to introduce to the public,' or 'to be introduced to the public.' Since it seems always to imply newness, premiere is frequently used in advertising. Thus a movie can premiere in selected theaters, and a year later it can 'premiere' to a different audience on television. The verb first came out in the 1930s and acceptance of it in general usage has been slow. In 1969, only 14 percent of the Usage Panel accepted it. Nineteen years later, however, when asked to judge the example The Philharmonic will premiere works by two young Americans, 51 percent of the Panelists accepted this usage. But only 10 percent of the Panelists in the 1988 survey accepted the extension of the verb to contexts outside of the entertainment industry, as in Last fall the school premiered new degree programs.
    (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Practice:

(a) The movie had its _____ in Cannes.

(b) "Taiwan's _____ resigned Monday amid strong criticism of the government's slow response to the most devastating storm to hit the island in 50 years." (AP, Sep. 7, 2009)

(c) Though the Hudson River gets most of the attention, the East River is New York City's _____ waterway.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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