pri·​ma·​cy | \ˈprī-mə-sē \

Definition of primacy 

1 : the state of being first (as in importance, order, or rank) : preeminence the primacy of intellectual and esthetic over materialistic values— T. R. McConnell

2 : the office, rank, or preeminence of an ecclesiastical primate

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of primacy in a Sentence

Civil law took primacy over religious law. She has established primacy in her field of study.

Recent Examples on the Web

The album’s primacy was in trouble as soon as iTunes and the iPod encouraged shuffling. New York Times, "Post Malone and Rae Sremmurd, Hip-Hop Impressionists Shaping the Stream," 9 May 2018 Roundtable participants agreed that: Intercollegiate athletics programs at all levels must respect the primacy of the academic enterprise and remain firmly grounded in it. Ted Mitchell, Washington Post, "Higher education must clean out its ‘front porch’," 25 Apr. 2018 Meanwhile, the Kurds, who held a referendum on independence one year ago, are now instead competing for primacy in Baghdad. Ghassan Adnan And Isabel Coles, WSJ, "Iraq Lawmakers Delay Vote to Elect New President," 1 Oct. 2018 The group distributed Zinke’s memo Tuesday in a news release and called it a stunning abdication of federal primacy for wildlife management on federal lands. Dan Joling, The Seattle Times, "Zinke seeks more state wildlife management on federal lands," 11 Sep. 2018 Many Americans hoped that engaging with China would open the country politically and economically and moderate any temptation on its part to challenge U.S. primacy. Richard N. Haass, WSJ, "The Crisis in U.S.-China Relations," 19 Oct. 2018 When Fiske’s name came up for promotion, the now widespread rumors of Subbarow’s primacy significantly damaged his chances. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "We Are Scientists," 5 June 2018 Alas, the neighborhood bar, like baseball itself, has lost its place of cultural primacy. Steve Rushin,, "How the World Has Changed in the 25 Years Since the Final Cheers Episode," 22 May 2018 What beast will come out of today’s scrum to battle for primacy in the new world of personal transportation? Rick Tetzeli, Fortune, "GM Gets Ready for a Post-Car Future," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'primacy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of primacy

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about primacy

Statistics for primacy

Last Updated

17 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for primacy

The first known use of primacy was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for primacy



English Language Learners Definition of primacy

: the state of being most important or strongest

More from Merriam-Webster on primacy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for primacy

Britannica English: Translation of primacy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on primacy

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


a knickknack or trinket

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!