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

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 Similar characteristics are seen in cries of pain and anguish, the researchers say, suggesting that laughing is a more emotional and primal response that emerged early in human evolution. Marcus Woo, Science | AAAS, "Can you tell a real laugh from a fake one?," 25 June 2018 Wielding a massive flamethrower can be satisfying in a truly primal way, and Wolfenstein II nails it. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Wolfenstein II on the Switch is the best way to kill Nazis on the go," 29 June 2018 In front of the wolf, which really is lurking around like an unsubtle metaphor at this point, June emits a primal scream that is an expression of all of her inward trauma., "The Handmaid's Tale Season 2, Episode 11 Recap: The Wolf Is A Metaphor," 27 June 2018 The small size of the fire keeps it manageable and protects the ground and dry grass from the flames while still filling that primal love of cooking with wood. Joe Jackson, Outside Online, "8 Tips for (Responsibly) Camping in Fire Season," 22 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about primal

Statistics for primal

Last Updated

14 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for primal

The first known use of primal was in 1604

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!