primary

adjective
pri·​ma·​ry | \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē How to pronounce primary (audio) , ˈprī-mə-rē, ˈprīm-rē How to pronounce primary (audio) \

Definition of primary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : first in order of time or development : primitive the primary stage of civilization the primary lesion of a disease
2a : 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 flight feathers 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
3a : 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

primary

noun
plural primaries

Definition of primary (Entry 2 of 2)

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 flight feathers on the distal joint of a bird's wing — see wing illustration
b : the sensation of seeing primary colors
5a : 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

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Examples of primary in a Sentence

Adjective

The economy was the primary focus of the debate. The family is the primary social unit of human life. The primary function of our schools is to educate our young people. We just started our primary flight training. The book is based mainly on primary sources rather than secondary sources.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The Democratic primary field seems to be growing by the week, but not every candidate is guaranteed a spot in the first primary debates. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Which Democratic Candidates Have Qualified for the Primary Debates at This Point?," 29 Mar. 2019 Births are the primary driver of population growth, with immigration also contributing. Christopher Rugaber, The Seattle Times, "AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s speech exaggerates border peril," 6 Feb. 2019 Further Reading The economic impacts of climate change could limit climate change In the US, cheap natural gas has been a primary driver in coal's fall from grace. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "King Coal isn’t dead—he’s just been exiled from the US," 20 Dec. 2018 Research published on Monday in Nature Geoscience found that volcanic activity in the Siberian Traps in northern Russia was a primary driver of the event. Christopher Carbone, Fox News, "The 'Great Dying': What made Earth's deadliest mass extinction so disastrous?," 28 Aug. 2018 Americans pay the highest health care prices in the world, which is a primary driver of the nation’s sky-high health care tab, according to a recent study by researchers at Harvard University and the London School of Economics. Casey Ross, STAT, "As Atul Gawande steps into a risky health CEO role, here are five challenges he faces," 9 July 2018 As for Leopold, the primary source of speculation toward him being Albert's father comes from a 1972 biography by David Duff. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Who Was Queen Victoria's Uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium?," 18 Feb. 2019 To be eligible for this benefit, the homeowner must have used the house as a primary residence for two of the previous five years. WSJ, "WSJ Tax Guide 2019: Home-Seller’s Exemption," 15 Feb. 2019 In 2011, the primary source of IP address space, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), ran out of freely available 32-bit IPv4 addresses. Popular Mechanics, "The Death of the Internet," 7 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

With eight states holding primaries today, the most important contests are in California, where the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—will advance to the general election. Allure, "The 15 Best Face Washes for Oily Skin," 19 Mar. 2019 Democratic primary voters might not reward that approach. Steve Peoples, The Seattle Times, "Bloomberg’s climate pragmatism could turn off 2020 Democrats," 12 Feb. 2019 Blackburn faces a tough challenge in November's general election from Phil Bredesen, who won 91.5 percent of votes in yesterday's Democratic primary, with a total of 348,302 votes. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Net neutrality foe Marsha Blackburn gets 85% of the vote in GOP Senate primary," 3 Aug. 2018 In too many recent elections, particularly primaries, that less than acceptable characterization is more accurately labeled pathetic. The Aegis, "Hard look needed at election problems in Maryland [Editorial]," 12 July 2018 Soon after Colyer’s segment, Kobach, who is running against Colyer in the the August Republican primary, issued a statement condemning Colyer for accepting the display of the flag in an indoor exhibit as a solution. Katy Bergen, kansascity, "KU flag removal ‘smacks of censorship’: ACLU, free speech advocates defend art piece," 12 July 2018 But that stance apparently was not enough for Democratic primary voters, who overwhelmingly backed Ocasio-Cortez. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "New litmus test? Dems demand elimination of ICE amid immigration furor," 28 June 2018 In this context, the fact that Democratic primary voters are eager to elect more women and people of color is an asset to an insurgent left-wing movement, not a liability. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Ocasio-Cortez Proved That ‘Identity Politics’ Is an Asset For Berniecrats," 27 June 2018 The Emerson College poll's margin of error was 4 percentage points, with the margin of error specifically for the Democratic primary voters was 6.2 percentage points. Richard Ruelas, azcentral, "Two polls have bad news for Gov. Doug Ducey's re-election campaign," 27 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of primary

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for primary

Adjective

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

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Statistics for primary

Last Updated

10 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for primary

The first known use of primary was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for primary

primary

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of primary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: most important
: most basic or essential
: happening or coming first

primary

noun

English Language Learners Definition of primary (Entry 2 of 2)

US : 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

adjective
pri·​ma·​ry | \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē How to pronounce primary (audio) , -mə-rē\

Kids Definition of primary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

primary

noun
plural primaries

Kids Definition of primary (Entry 2 of 2)

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

primary

adjective
pri·​ma·​ry | \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē How to pronounce primary (audio) , ˈprīm-(ə-)rē How to pronounce primary (audio) \

Medical Definition of primary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(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 sense 3, tertiary sense 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

primary

noun
plural -ries

Medical Definition of primary (Entry 2 of 2)

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primary

adjective
pri·​ma·​ry | \ ˈprī-ˌmer-ē, -mə-rē How to pronounce primary (audio) \

Legal Definition of primary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

Other Words from primary

primarily \ prī-​ˈmer-​ə-​lē How to pronounce primarily (audio) \ adverb

primary

noun
plural -ries

Legal Definition of primary (Entry 2 of 2)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on primary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with primary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for primary

Spanish Central: Translation of primary

Nglish: Translation of primary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of primary for Arabic Speakers

Comments on primary

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