A certain popular science fiction/fantasy franchise will debut its latest film on Friday: but will that event be a premiere or premier?
I’ve lost count of how many people have referred to the upcoming “premier” of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Unfortunately, they’re using the wrong form of the word.
Premiere and premier are examples of homophones. Homophones are words which are pronounced the same way but differ in meaning and often differ in spelling as well. Homophones cause some of the greatest grammatical pet peeves: consider the angst over people misusing there, their and they’re. They’re homophones: they’re pronounced the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings.
So let’s dive in and look at premiere and premier.
Premiere (with an e at the end) means the first performance of a play, television show or drama. It can also refer to the principle player in such a production. You can remember to add that e if you associate e for “entertainment.”
It can also be a verb, as in “The movie premieres on Friday,” to mean the act of holding that first performance. It still refers to entertainment, so there’s still that e at the end.
The other word, premier, also refers to “the first,” but in a different way: it means “the first in status,” and typically refers to a country’s prime minister. However, despite the fact most of the time we encounter the word premier, it happens to refer to a government official, it can also be used outside of government circles, as in this example: “an architect of premier status.”
It could be said that fans who watched the premiere of Star Wars in 1977 quickly realized that Darth Vader was a premier figure of the Imperial Empire.