If you’re a big movie fan—or a fan of live theater—you might be well acquainted with these two words. But for those of us who are simply casually moviegoers, it’s tough to know whether we are seeing a movie premier or premiere.
As with many other confusing English words, premier and premiere can trip up people in their writing. They sound the same when spoken, and they are only one letter apart from each other.
Aren’t these really just the same word? Is there any difference between them?
What is the Difference Between Premier and Premiere?
In this post, I want to highlight the differences between these two words: premier vs. premiere. I will cover each word’s definition and function in a sentence, and I provide example sentences for each word from newspapers and other authorities.
Plus, at the end, I will give a tip to remember the difference between the two.
After reading this post, you shouldn’t have any problem remembering which word is the correct choice.
When to Use Premier
What does premier mean? Premier functions as an adjective and is defined as first in status or importance; principal or chief.
- He was the premier architect of his generation.
- The Beatles were the premier rock-and-roll band of the 1960s.
- In 1975, he was hired as the executive chef at Commander’s Palace, one of the city’s premier Creole restaurants, where he began introducing Cajun dishes like chicken and andouille gumbo made with an authentic roux. –The New York Times
Premier also has a very specific meaning as a noun.
When used as a noun, premier refers to a prime minster or a chief administrative officer, as of a Canadian province.
- The British premier was not satisfied with the trade deal.
- A district court in Chisinau ordered the 30-day arrest of Vlad Filat, who was premier from 2009 to 2013, on Sunday. –Washington Post
When to Use Premiere
What does premiere mean? Premiere functions as a noun and is defined as the first public performance, as of a movie or play.
- I went to the premiere of the new Avengers movie.
- The line wrapped around the entire building on the night of the premiere.
- The Dallas Opera season starts Oct. 30 with the world premiere of Great Scott by composer Jake Heggie. –The Dallas Morning News
Premiere can also function as a verb and means to present the first public performance of.
- The ballet premiered last week and was a giant success.
- His first play premiered at the Metropolitan Opera.
This verbal use of premiere is primarily limited to entertainment contexts: movies, plays, operas, ballets, etc.
Is It Okay to Use Premiere as a Verb?
When people first started using premiere as a verb in the 1920s, it was met with some criticism.
In 1969, only 14 percent of The American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel accepted premiere as a verb. This number has risen to 84 percent in their 2008 survey, so it is clearly on an upward trajectory.
However, it is still not widely accepted to use premiere as a verb outside of an entertainment context. In the same 2008 American Heritage survey, only 38 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the following sentence:
- Last fall the school premiered new degree programs in science and technology.
This 38 percent is up from 10 percent in the 1988 survey.
What does this all mean?
In entertainment contexts, it’s perfectly acceptable to use premiere as a verb, as it’s widely used and widely accepted.
In non-entertainment contexts, there is still wide opposition to the use of premiere as a verb. Considering that this is the case, it’s best to avoid premiere in such contexts, knowing that in 25 to 30 years, the opinion might be different.
Should There Be Accent Marks on Première?
It is common for imported words, also referred to as “loanwords,” to maintain their original accent marks when brought into English.
These marks can survive indefinitely, as is the case with words like jalapeño, or they can fall into disuse as terms become fully naturalized in English.
Première comes from French and originally had an accent mark, but it is such a common word in modern English that there is no need to maintain the accent. As you can see from the below chart, premiere without any accent marks is clearly the preferred spelling in English.
Another example of a fully naturalized French word that once has accents is the word resume, originally spelled résumé.
Trick to Remember the Difference
With all of this extra information on the use of the word premiere, let’s circle back to our original topic: premiere vs. premier. What is a good way to remember which word is which?
The word premiere refers to the first showing or performance of something. It is used regularly to refer to movies. Premiere and movie both end in the letter “E.”
If you can associate the word premiere with the word movie, both of which end in the letter “E,” you will be set to never mix up these two words.
Is it premiere or premier? That depends on the context of your sentence.
Premier is used primarily as an adjective to refer to something that is first in order or importance.
Premiere is used primarily as a noun, but increasingly as a verb too, to refer to the initial showing or performance of a play, movie, ballet, etc.