Premier vs. premiere?

Premier and premiere originate from the same word, but they have different meanings. The word premier represents a top-ranking official or something of importance. Premiere describes a debut performance for cinema, theater, music, etc.

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What is the difference between premier and premiere?

If you attend the first showing of a movie, is it a premier or a premiere? Whether you’re a native English speaker or new to English grammar, these two words are very tricky to distinguish (and especially for Americans). No matter the case, The Word Counter can help you master these terms for everyday use. 

As an adjective, the word premier means ‘leading in order, importance, or ranking,’ while the noun form means ‘the head of a government or country.’ So, if we tread back to the original question, neither definition of premier fit the meaning of a ‘first showing.’ 

The correct word to use is premiere, which we can use as a noun, verb, or adjective. As a noun, the word premiere means ‘the first and opening performance of a theatrical performance or film,’ while the verb means ‘to perform the first presentation’ or ‘to debut.’ 

Coming in last is the adjective form of premiere: ‘the first or most paramount.’ Yes, the adjective meaning does appear similar to premier, but the term is strictly confined to the context of entertainment–– not ranking order. 

American homophones: premier vs. premiere

If you’re surprised to learn these differences, you’re certainly not alone. English speakers often confuse the adjective premier for the noun premiere because of their grammatical gender and speech similarities. 

According to Garner’s Modern English Usage, the American English version of premier and premiere are homophones because Americans pronounce either term as “pri-meer” (Garner 721). However, British English pronounces premier as “prem-ye” and premiere as “prem-ee-e,” where either term ends with a silent “r.”

Wait, isn’t premier and premiere the same French word?

Generally speaking, the words premier and premiere are differentiated by French grammatical gender: premier is masculine, and premiere is feminine. We’ve covered similar French-to-English grammar with “blonde vs. blond” or “fiancé vs. fiancée,” where one form is for women and the other for men. But this is not the case for premier vs. premiere

While premier and premiere originate from the same French and Latin roots, the two terms developed independently within the English Language. As outlined by The New Oxford American Dictionary, the adjective premier entered Middle English vocabularies in the late 15th century from Old French premier (‘first’) and Latin prīmārius or prīmus for ‘first’ (“Premier” 1379). 

The noun form premier arrived shortly after in 1707, and English speakers slowly began using premiere as an adjective and noun. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the adjective came first in 1768 as an alteration of “premier,” while the noun originated in 1889 to mean “the first performance.” 

The popularized verb, premiere, didn’t enter the English domain until 1927. As explained by The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), English borrowed the verb from French première to create a standard expression for ‘introducing performances to the public.’ 

Using premier vs. premiere in the 20th century

Despite the term’s rising popularity in the 19th century, it’s taken a while for Americans to accept premiere for everyday use. According to ADH, only 38 percent of 2008 Usage Panelists approved the use of “premiere” for American English. 

But for those of us who still use premiere or premier, Garner’s Modern English Usage provides three critical observations and suggestions: 

  1. Don’t use the adjective premier in place of “first” or “foremost,” as it conveys a “pretentious” tone. 
  2. Do use premiere as a verb because it’s now standard to do so. 
  3. Don’t use the French accent in première for the noun. 

What is the definition of premier?

Premier is an adjective or noun that generally conveys an air of importance and status. The adjective form of premier describes something as ‘first in authority, rank, or status;’ ‘the first to occur or exist,’ or; ‘the best’ or ‘most important.’ For example,

“North Greenwood Industrial Park advancing as the county’s premier economic development site.” –– Index-Journal 
“… the country’s premier establishment for exhibitions of design will open the Museum of Italian Design …” –– The New York Times
“Frequent travelers who fly with United can become eligible for Premier status, which includes four reward tiers …” –– USA Today

The noun premier often references a government leader within news writing, whether it’s a prime minister, president, or chief administrative officer. Another noun form occurs with the term “premiership,” which means ‘the office or position of a leader.’ Example sentences include: 

“Stung by election losses, Taiwan’s president replaces the premier.” –– Los Angeles Times
“China’s premier warns of slower growth, problems ahead.” –– The Washington Post
“… he couldn’t blame anyone wanting to question Parramatta’s premiership credentials after the flimsiest defensive performance of the NRL season.” –– Victoria Harbor Times

Synonyms

Adjective: Chief, choice, commanding, earliest, elite, first, finest, foremost, greatest, head, high, inaugural, initial, lead, leading, maiden, master, original, overriding, paramount, peerless, pioneer, preeminent, presiding, primary, prime, principal, senior, sovereign, supereminent, supreme, top, unparalleled.

Noun: Boss, chief, chief minister, chancellor, head of government, prime minister, president, principal.

Antonyms

Adjective: Assistant, ancillary, coadjutor, final, inconsequential, inferior, insignificant, last, latter, least, lower, minor, negligible, slight, subordinate, subsidiary, terminal, terminating, ultimate, unimportant. 

What does premiere mean?

The word premiere is a noun, verb, and adjective that involves the context of the entertainment industry. As explained by the Cambridge Dictionary, the noun premiere describes the first performance, whether it’s the first showing of a movie or “the first public performance of a play.” For example, 

“Selena Gomez announces virtual movie premiere for ‘This Is the Year.’ –– CNN
“Apple abruptly scraps film premiere over ‘concerns.’ –– Al Jazeera

Naturally, the verb premiere means ‘to present’ a show or ‘to appear at’ the first public performance or screening. Verbs forms of premiere include premieres, premiered, or premiering. Sentence examples include, 

“Princess Diana musical to premiere on Netflix before Broadway debut.” –– The Guardian
“‘Eater’s Guide to the World’ premieres this fall on Hulu.” –– Eater
“The most anticipated new TV shows premiering in September.” –– Business Insider
“The French-language work premiered as the opening film at Venice and starred Catherine Deneuve …” –– Forbes

Lastly, the adjective premiere can describe something as ‘the first’ or ‘paramount.’ For example, 

“Yorke Zoomed it in for his premiere performance of ‘Plasticine Figures.’” –– Billboard
“The premiere act saw around 100 people show up despite the rainy conditions.” ––  Ottawa Valley News

Synonyms

Advent, appearance, arrival, debut, emergence, first performance, first night, launch, opening, opening night. 

Antonyms

Cessation, close, closing, closure, completion, end, ending, finale, finish, termination, windup. 

How to use premiere in a sentence?

Now that we’ve covered the definitions of premiere, it’s time to perfect our craft. To use “premiere” correctly, it’s imperative to know whether it’s a noun, adjective, or verb. For example:

“The premiere episode of Real Housewives encompasses the dissonance between material wealth and human connection.” (adjective)
“Reporting from the red carpet in New York, we are waiting to view the premiere performance of Hamilton.”  (adjective)
“The TV show’s season premiere received critical acclaim.”  (noun)
“Although we can now attend stadium events, vendors expect millions of sports fans to watch the series premiere at home.”  (noun)
“This weekend, celebrities attended the world premiere of the new Batman film.”  (noun)

As for the verb premiere, you might have an easier time distinguishing the verb through specific tense forms: 

  • Infinitive: to premiere
  • Present tense: premiere or premieres
  • Past tense: premiered 
  • Present continuous: premiering

Now let’s compare sentences: 

“The new film premiered by accident.” (past tense)

“The movie is set to premiere on Friday.” (infinitive)

“The new film is premiering this weekend.” (present continuous

“The movie premieres tonight.” (present tense)

How to use premier in a sentence?

Similarly to “premiere,” the correct use of premier involves word forms. To use premier as a noun, make sure that you’re discussing a top-ranking official, such as a political leader or a boss. For example, 

“The former premier resigned after the Google-related scandal.” 
“Montreal premier to proscribe oil drilling in northern territories.”

To use the adjective form correctly, premier needs to describe another noun as ‘most important,’ ‘the best,’ or ‘the highest-ranking.’ For example, 

“The rural golf club basks premier members with luxurious commodities for their stay.”
“The premier establishment boasts a five-star rating across Yelp and other various platforms.” 
“The award ceremony marks a premier occasion for scientists and artists alike.” 

Test Yourself!

Ready to “premiere” your new grammar skills? Double-check your understanding of premier vs. premiere with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: French “première” is the feminine form of ‘premier.’ 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. A theatrical performance that opens to the public for the first time is called a ____________.  
    a. Premier
    b. Premiers
    c. Premiere
    d. Premiered 
  3. Which is not a synonym of “premier”? 
    a. Inaugural 
    b. Presiding
    c. Coadjutor
    d. Pioneer
  4. Which is not a synonym of “premiere”? 
    a. Appearance
    b. Windup
    c. Launch
    d. Opening
  5. Identify the word form of “premiere:” “We watched the world premiere.” 
    a. Adjective
    b. Verb
    c. Noun
    d. None of the above

Answers

  1. A
  2. C
  3. C
  4. B
  5. C

Sources

  1. Bailey, S. “Eels’ hiding prompts premiership questions.” Victoria Harbor Times, 28 Aug 2020. 
  2. Brandle, L. “Thom Yorke Delivers Intimate Premiere of ‘Plasticine Figures’ on ‘Fallon.’” Billboard, 30 Apr 2020. 
  3. Garner, B. “Premier, adj.; premier, n.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 721. 
  4. Merican, S. “The Case For ‘Shoplifters’ Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s First Korean Film Foray.” Forbes, 31 Aug 2020. 
  5. Mulvihill, J. “Music in the Park returns to Renfrew.” Ottawa Valley News, 9 Aug 2020.  
  6. Premier.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020. 
  7. Premier.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  8. Premier.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  9. “Premier” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 1379.
  10. Premiere.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020. 
  11. Premiere.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  12. Premiere.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  13. Premiere.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 1379.
  14. Rysman, L. “Gingham Handbags, a Shrine to Italian Design and More.” The New York Times, 22 Mar 2019. 
  15. Walsh, K. “How to Get United Airlines Global Services.” USA Today, 7 Feb 2019.