adjective \ˈpri-mə-tiv\

: of, belonging to, or seeming to come from an early time in the very ancient past

: not having a written language, advanced technology, etc.

: very simple and basic : made or done in a way that is not modern and that does not show much skill

Full Definition of PRIMITIVE

a :  not derived :  original, primary
b :  assumed as a basis; especially :  axiomatic <primitive concepts>
a :  of or relating to the earliest age or period :  primeval <the primitive church>
b :  closely approximating an early ancestral type :  little evolved <primitive mammals>
c :  belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development :  crude, rudimentary <primitive technology>
d :  of, relating to, or constituting the assumed parent speech of related languages <primitive Germanic>
a :  elemental, natural <our primitive feelings of vengeance — John Mackwood>
b :  of, relating to, or produced by a people or culture that is nonindustrial and often nonliterate and tribal <primitive art>
c :  naive
d (1) :  self-taught, untutored <primitive craftsmen>
(2) :  produced by a self-taught artist <a primitive painting>
prim·i·tive·ly adverb
prim·i·tive·ness noun
prim·i·tiv·i·ty \ˌpri-mə-ˈti-və-tē\ noun

Examples of PRIMITIVE

  1. the time when primitive man first learned to use fire
  2. The technology they used was primitive and outdated.
  3. The camp had only a primitive outdoor toilet.


Middle English primitif, from Latin primitivus first formed, from primitiae first fruits, from primus first — more at prime
First Known Use: 14th century

Other Biology Terms

autochthonous, fecund, homunculus, phylogeny, substrate



: an artist who makes art in a simple style that is childlike; also : the art made by such an artist

: someone who belongs to a primitive society

Full Definition of PRIMITIVE

a :  something primitive; specifically :  a primitive idea, term, or proposition
b :  a root word
a (1) :  an artist of an early period of a culture or artistic movement (2) :  a later imitator or follower of such an artist
b (1) :  a self-taught artist
(2) :  an artist whose work is marked by directness and naïveté
c :  a work of art produced by a primitive artist
d :  a typically rough or simple usually handmade and antique home accessory or furnishing
a :  a member of a primitive people
b :  an unsophisticated person

Examples of PRIMITIVE

  1. The museum is known for its collection of American primitives.

First Known Use of PRIMITIVE

15th century

Other Anthropology Terms

ectomorph, ethnography, prehistory, yurt


adjective \ˈprim-ət-iv\   (Medical Dictionary)

Medical Definition of PRIMITIVE

: closely approximating an early ancestral type : little evolved
: belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development <primitive cells>
prim·i·tive·ly adverb


Next Word in the Dictionary: primitive area
Previous Word in the Dictionary: primitial
All Words Near: primitive

Seen & Heard

What made you want to look up primitive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).