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pre·​lim·​i·​nary pri-ˈli-mə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce preliminary (audio)
: coming before and usually forming a necessary prelude to something else
preliminary studies
preliminary results
preliminarily adverb


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plural preliminaries
: something that precedes or is introductory or preparatory: such as
: a preliminary heat or trial (as of a race)
: a minor match preceding the main event (as of a boxing card)
: a preliminary scholastic examination
preliminaries plural, British : front matter

Examples of preliminary in a Sentence

Adjective Preliminary findings show that the drug could help patients with skin cancer. The team was eliminated in the preliminary round of the tournament. research that is preliminary to the study Noun a meeting to discuss seating arrangements that was merely a preliminary to the formal negotiating sessions
Recent Examples on the Web
According to court documents and a preliminary crash report by the Missouri Highway Patrol, the crash occurred shortly after 12:10 a.m. Thursday on southbound I-29 near Dearborn, Missouri. Robert A. Cronkleton, Kansas City Star, 12 July 2024 Investigators are still working on their preliminary report, which is expected later this month. Thomas Lake, CNN, 12 July 2024
On the national level, the competition is in four phases: preliminaries, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. Alex Groth, Journal Sentinel, 28 May 2024 But the fact that the two sides are conversing at all is an essential preliminary to eventual disarmament talks. Steven Simon, Foreign Affairs, 11 Jan. 2010 See all Example Sentences for preliminary 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'preliminary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



French préliminaires, plural, from Medieval Latin praeliminaris, adjective, preliminary, from Latin prae- pre- + limin-, limen threshold

First Known Use


1657, in the meaning defined above


1656, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of preliminary was in 1656

Dictionary Entries Near preliminary

Cite this Entry

“Preliminary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
pre·​lim·​i·​nary pri-ˈlim-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce preliminary (audio)
plural preliminaries
: something preliminary


2 of 2 adjective
: coming before the main part or item : introductory
preliminarily adverb

Legal Definition


: coming before and usually serving as a temporary or intermediate step to something
preliminary negotiations
a preliminary payment plan
preliminarily adverb
preliminary noun

More from Merriam-Webster on preliminary

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