pri·​mal | \ˈprī-məl \

Definition of primal 

1 : original, primitive village life continued in its primal innocence— Van Wyck Brooks

2 : first in importance : primary

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Examples of primal in a Sentence

the primal theme of the essay is toleration of religious diversity there was a period of primal idealism after the founding of the republic and before the rise of partisan politics

Recent Examples on the Web

The primal part of my brain started to scream that this was a good time to start panicking. Chris Peterman, Ars Technica, "Risky Thailand cave rescue relied on talent, luck—and on sticking to the rules," 22 July 2018 The insult’s second level is more primal and purely physical: Aunt Lydia is a dowdy, dour, and unadorned woman. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "It’s Okay to Be Offended by Michelle Wolf’s Jokes," 30 Apr. 2018 That's certainly true of Old Habits, whose novel takes on classic junk foods trigger primal urges that can weaken your inhibitions just as easily as the booze. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Old Habits is bar food reborn," 20 Apr. 2018 Both films argue for what a primal scene the Soul Train Awards were. Wesley Morris, New York Times, "Review: ‘Whitney,’ a Pop Music Tragedy, Is Sad, Strange and Dismaying," 5 July 2018 The national fear of shark attacks got its start some 43 years ago with the release of the movie blockbuster that unleashed the primal fear of being eaten alive while swimming. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "Sharks vs. humans: At 100 million deaths against 6 each year, it's not a fair fight," 11 July 2018 His expression was the same I’d seen on my brothers’ faces that day at the rancher’s fence, a mix of wonder, astonishment and primal fear. Peter Gwin, WSJ, "The Horses That Changed History," 19 June 2018 The practice allows the parent and baby to bond on a very primal, physical level, Jessica A. Shepherd, an ob/gyn at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF. Korin Miller, SELF, "Why It’s So Important That Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Did Skin-to-Skin Contact With His New Daughter," 25 Apr. 2018 The sight of Ant-Man using a flatbed truck for a scooter tickles some primal nerve cluster in our brains. Ty Burr,, "‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is a Marvel marvel," 4 July 2018

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

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First Known Use of primal

1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for primal

Medieval Latin primalis, from Latin primus first — more at prime

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Statistics for primal

Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for primal

The first known use of primal was in 1604

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More Definitions for primal



English Language Learners Definition of primal

: very basic and powerful

More from Merriam-Webster on primal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for primal

Britannica English: Translation of primal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on primal

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


noxious or harmful

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