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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
This is just a preliminary decision, ahead of final approval. Thomas Ricker, The Verge, 22 Sep. 2023 In August, Border Patrol apprehended roughly 180,000 migrants, according to preliminary agency data. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 21 Sep. 2023 He is being held without bail and is scheduled to next appear in court on Nov. 7 for a preliminary hearing. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 20 Sep. 2023 At a preliminary hearing two months after the shooting, Truby testified before a different D.C. Superior Court judge that investigators identified their teenage defendant from security footage that captured the incident. Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, 17 Sep. 2023 Harvey’s role at Babylon was to get the go-ahead from regulators that the app could be used to triage patients—a preliminary assessment that ascertains how urgently a patient needs to be seen by a doctor. WIRED, 19 Sep. 2023 One possible factor, according to preliminary research, may be a decline in sleep quality and duration among the general population. Mira Miller, Verywell Health, 18 Sep. 2023 CalPERS announced preliminary returns of 5.8% for the fiscal 2022-2023 year in July—below its annual target of roughly 7%. Anne Sraders, Fortune, 18 Sep. 2023 Late last week, news outlets including The Times reported that Disney has received preliminary interest from potential buyers, including Nexstar. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2023
In the meantime, city councilors are expected to fulfill their tasks and responsibilities until the upcoming election, with preliminaries in September. Sarah Raza,, 12 July 2023 Winners in the evening gown preliminaries will receive $300 each in scholarship money. Mary Colurso |, al, 2 July 2023 Richardson’s performances for the last two seasons had ranged from world-class to not fast enough to advance out of the preliminaries at the U.S. championships. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 10 July 2023 The Miss Alabama competition is nearing its conclusion, with three nights of preliminaries completed before Saturday’s finale. Mary Colurso |, al, 30 June 2023 Harrison competed in Thursday’s preliminaries of the senior 1,500, finishing fifth in his heat. oregonlive, 7 July 2023 Scores received in the preliminaries were used to create a composite score that was considered by the judges on Saturday, and weighted as 30 percent of each contestant’s score in the finals. Mary Colurso |, al, 2 July 2023 Enter Email Sign Up Dressel finished 29th in the preliminaries of his first event at nationals, the 100 free. Paul Newberry,, 28 June 2023 Prince wasn't able to break her state record of 13.59 at the AIA state high school Open championships in May at Mesa Community College due to a false start in preliminaries. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, 14 June 2023 See More

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 3 Oct. 2023.

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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