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Premiere or Premier?

Let’s have a look at the commonly confused “premier” vs “premiere”.

Premiere? I liked the sound and sense of the word to describe a spa resort, but I wasn’t sure about the spelling. What do you think? Premiere or premier?

As usual, the experts gathered on my bookshelf do not agree completely, but the clear preference for the use in my sample phrase is premier.

Premiere vs. Premiere

If you would like to refresh yourself on the spellings and meanings of the two forms, here is what the excellent Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, offers:

Premier as an adjective means “first in position, rank, or importance” (like the premier spa resort) and “first in time, earliest.”

Premier as a noun is cross-referenced to “prime minister.”

Premiere is listed as an adjective and cross-referenced to premier. So that version, premiere, is correct for the spa resort too.

Premiere the noun is “a first performance or exhibition of” or “the chief actress of a theatrical cast.”

Premiere the verb is “to have a first public performance” or “to appear for the first time as a star performer.”

What Do The Style Guides Say?

The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, generally agrees with Merriam-Webster’s on this topic, but it adds a definition for the adjective form premiere: “first or paramount; premier.” 

The wonderfully opinionated Garner’s Modern American Usage, Third Edition, finds premier “often pretentious in place of first or foremost.” (Often pretentious perhaps, but I think it works for a spa hotel.) However, Garner emphatically states that premier is the adjective form, and premiere the noun.

The AP Stylebook doesn’t discuss premier except as the title of a political leader, and The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t mention either version.

After reviewing my best reference books, I will grant that both words may be used to describe the spa hotel. But I choose premier.


Here are some examples of both words being used in the media:

Woman in Gold is released in cinemas next month, but at its premiere in Berlin the Austrian reviewers were generous about its portrayal of a national reluctance to face the art crimes of the past, according to playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell, who wrote the screenplay. – The Guardian

Powerball sales this year are running 40 percent ahead of last year. They are the premier example of the national trend toward bigger prizes and more gambling venues. – The New York Times

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

16 comments on “Premiere or Premier?”

  • Interesting examination, Lynn. I went through a similar exercise recently for “glean.” This word has popped up at my office in a variety of situations. I began to wonder if I was witnessing the birth of a new corporate buzzword. Some people seem to use “glean” instead of “winnow,” while others think the word implies using sophisticated computer analytics to uncover information. I’ve used my Webster’s New World to point out that the word’s origins are in agriculture – a far cry from computer analytics. That’s winnowed out its misuse.

  • These are both interesting discussions. If English nouns were all gender-specific, it would be more obvious when to use premier and premiere. But Garner’s sounds right when you consider the term “film premiere” usually includes the final e. I think the adjective is a handy word, which stands out in a marketing piece.

    I like the word glean, too, but it is subtly different from winnow. Glean means to find the good stuff while winnow means remove the bad stuff. Or maybe it’s different in regards to computer analytics!

  • Hi, Diane. I am glad you mentioned “glean.” I was surprised recently after a business writing class, when many participants wrote about how much they had “gleaned.” One evaluation after another used “gleaned.” Perhaps it is a new buzzword.

    On the other hand, I never see “winnow.” Maybe you will start a trend.

    Thanks for writing!


  • Hi, Val. Like you, I appreciate “premier” and “glean,” even though the latter may soon become overused, with all the gleaning people are doing lately.

    Thanks for your always interesting views.


  • I loved your description of Garner’s Modern American Usage. I am not familiar with this reference book, but may just have to get a copy. Sounds like a good reminder that even if a word is technically appropriate or a sentence grammatically correct, it still may cause unintended emotions, responses, and consequences. Thanks, as always, Lynn, for your attention to detail and your commitment to clear communication!

  • Great post! I always love your explanations. I only wish that title had been “Premier or Premiere,” both for alphabetical reasons and order of preference.

    For what it’s worth, at work we default to Webster’s whenever possible, and use the primary entry in cases where variants are listed. So “premier” would also get our vote as preferable.

    Lester Smith

  • According to the OED online, the 15th century PREMIER is from Old French (first) and Latin (principal). The 19th century PREMIERE is derived from the contemporary French word “premiere” (accent mark over the second “e”), the feminine version of the masculine “premier” (no accent mark). PREMIER seems to be a specific adaption of the contemporary French word with a distinct definition rather than just an alternate spelling and additional definition of the older word from the 15th century.

  • Hi, Lester. I debated putting “premier” first. What changed my mind was that the writing class participant used “premiere.” Somehow I felt committed to leading with that choice since that is where the story began.

    Thanks for commenting and sharing your preference for “Webster.”


  • Hi, Audrey. I have studied Spanish, Portuguese, and German–but not French (at least not since third grade). That is why I avoided getting into the French roots. I was afraid to err.

    Thanks for opening that linguistic door.


  • I think “glean” is spreading. Here’s a story from today’s Wall Street Journal:

    WASHINGTON—A set of handwritten notes picked up by the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden prompted the government to warn of potential al Qaeda threats to the U.S. train network, the first known use of intelligence gleaned from the raid.

  • With the French loan words “premier” and “premiere”, it would make a big difference in French, the distinction being that in French, there are masculine and feminine nouns. In English, nouns are neutral, so either could be used, I think. However, the English language neutrality is not always followed. A man with yellowish hair is “blond”, while a similar woman is “blonde”, following the French rule. One of the most wonderfully consistent things about the English language is its inconsistency!

  • Samuel Webster attempted, with some success, to bring sanity. Still, we are burdened with inconsistencies between BrE and AmE. Colour (Fr to BrE) or color (AmE)? Learnt (BrE irregular verb) or learned (AmE regular verb)? In years past in England, “ain’t” was considered an aristocratic convention. Do we drop a final “r” as in BrE “war”: “waw” or do we pronounce it as in AmE “Warrr”? Do we say “an historical novel” or “a historical novel”? (depends on your h’s ) [see google ngram viewer for usage frequency]
    How do we explain that the plural of “egg” is now standardized as “eggs” when in parts of England the plural was “eggys”?
    A fairly recent innovation I enjoy is the increasing usage of the Indian term for something that happens before it was originally scheduled. Something later, we all agree, is “postponed”. Indian English has come up with “preponed”, a logical evolution.
    Thank god there is no Academie Anglaise!

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