1

primary

adjective pri·ma·ry \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē , ˈprī-mə-rē , ˈprīm-rē \

Definition of primary

1 :first in order of time or development :primitive
  • the primary stage of civilization
  • the primary lesion of a disease
2 a :of first rank, importance, or value :principal
  • the primary purpose
b :basic, fundamental
  • security is a primary need
c :of, relating to, or constituting the principal quills of a bird's wing
d :of or relating to agriculture, forestry, and the extractive industries or their products
e :expressive of present or future time
  • primary tense
f :of, relating to, or constituting the strongest of the three or four degrees of stress recognized by most linguists
  • the first syllable of basketball carries primary stress
3 a :direct, firsthand
  • primary sources of information
b :not derivable from other colors, odors, or tastes
c :preparatory to something else in a continuing process
  • primary instruction
d :of or relating to a primary school
  • primary education
e :of or relating to a primary election
  • a primary candidate
f :belonging to the first group or order in successive divisions, combinations, or ramifications
  • primary nerves
g :directly derived from ores
  • primary metals
h :of, relating to, or being the amino acid sequence in proteins
  • primary protein structure
4 :resulting from the substitution of one of two or more atoms or groups in a molecule
  • a primary amine
; especially :being or characterized by a carbon atom having a bond to only one other carbon atom
5 :of, relating to, involving, or derived from primary meristem
  • primary tissue
  • primary growth
6 :of, relating to, or involved in the production of organic substances by green plants
  • primary productivity
7 :providing primary care
  • a primary physician

Examples of primary in a Sentence

  1. The economy was the primary focus of the debate.

  2. The family is the primary social unit of human life.

  3. The primary function of our schools is to educate our young people.

  4. We just started our primary flight training.

  5. The book is based mainly on primary sources rather than secondary sources.

Recent Examples of primary from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of primary

Middle English, from Late Latin primarius basic, primary, from Latin, principal, from primus


2

primary

noun

Definition of primary

plural -ries
1 :something that stands first in rank, importance, or value :fundamental usually used in plural
2 :the celestial body around which one or more other celestial bodies revolve; especially :the more massive usually brighter component of a binary star system
3 :one of the usually 9 or 10 strong quills on the distal joint of a bird's wing — see wing illustration
b :the sensation of seeing primary colors
5 a :caucus
b :an election in which qualified voters nominate or express a preference for a particular candidate or group of candidates for political office, choose party officials, or select delegates for a party convention
6 :the coil that is connected to the source of electricity in an induction coil or transformer called also primary coil

Recent Examples of primary from the Web

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

First Known Use of primary

1656


PRIMARY Defined for English Language Learners

primary

adjective

Definition of primary for English Language Learners

  • : most important

  • : most basic or essential

  • : happening or coming first


primary

noun

Definition of primary for English Language Learners

  • : an election in which members of the same political party run against each other for the chance to be in a larger and more important election


PRIMARY Defined for Kids

1

primary

adjective pri·ma·ry \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē , -mə-rē \

Definition of primary for Students

1 :first in time or development
  • the primary grades
2 :most important :main
  • primary duties
3 :not made or coming from something else :basic
  • the primary source of information
4 :relating to or being the heaviest of three levels of stress in pronunciation

Word Root of primary

The Latin word primus, meaning “first,” gives us the root prim. Words from the Latin primus have something to do with being first. Anything primary comes first in importance or order. Anything primeval belongs to a period of time that came first, before the present. Anything primitive also belongs to an earlier time.


2

primary

noun

Definition of primary for Students

plural primaries
:an election in which members of a political party nominate candidates for office

Medical Dictionary

1

primary

adjective pri·ma·ry \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē , ˈprīm-(ə-)rē \

medical Definition of primary

1 a (1) :first in order of time or development
(2) :relating to or being the milk teeth and especially the 20 milk teeth in the human set
b (1) :arising spontaneously :idiopathic
  • primary insomnia
  • the absence of any pelvic abnormality confirmed the diagnosis of primary dysmenorrhea
(2) :being an initial tumor or site especially of cancer
  • efforts to find the primary tumor have failed
  • —Raphael Feinmesser
c :providing primary care
  • a primary physician
2 :not derivable from other colors, odors, or tastes
3 :belonging to the first group or order in successive divisions, combinations, or ramifications
  • primary nerves
4 :of, relating to, or being the amino acid sequence in proteins
  • primary protein structure
— compare secondary 3, tertiary 2c
5 :resulting from the substitution of one of two or more atoms or groups in a molecule; especially :being or characterized by a carbon atom having a bond to only one other carbon atom

2

primary

noun

medical Definition of primary

plural -ries

Law Dictionary

1

primary

adjective pri·ma·ry \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē, -mə-rē \

legal Definition of primary

1 :of first rank, value, or importance
2 :belonging to the first group or order in successive divisions, combinations, or ramifications

primarily

play \prī-ˈmer-ə-lē\ adverb

2

primary

noun

legal Definition of primary

plural -ries
1 :caucus
2 :an election in which qualified voters nominate or express a preference for a particular candidate or group of candidates for political office, choose party officials, or select delegates for a party convention


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