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 document also explains the distinctions are based on the business' primary purpose before June 29. Tirion Morris, The Arizona Republic, "Do all Arizona bars have to close? 6 questions answered about Ducey's new executive order," 2 July 2020 In this country, homeownership is a primary source of wealth. Otis R. Taylor Jr., SFChronicle.com, "Living in Oakland is ‘hell’? President shows his true colors," 29 June 2020 The primary federal source for child care subsidies is a $5.83 billion program known as CCDBG, or the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Lillian Mongeau, USA TODAY, "High-quality daycare is too expensive. Government subsidies are making it worse.," 28 June 2020 Mulligan had enlisted Rivera, who was desperate for money after the pandemic had sapped his primary source of income, building furniture and manual labor via TaskRabbit. J. David Mcswane, ProPublica, "He Removed Labels That Said “Medical Use Prohibited,” Then Tried to Sell Thousands of Masks to Officials Who Distribute to Hospitals," 25 June 2020 His campaign spokesman Allen Blakemore said the primary purpose of a mask is to protect others and Patrick recently tested negative for COVID-19. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pleads with Texans to wear masks, but leaves decisions to local leaders," 25 June 2020 Mass gatherings such as conferences—my primary source of income—are foreclosed until social-distancing measures are lifted. Ekemini Uwan, The Atlantic, "There’s No Going Back to ‘Normal’," 13 June 2020 In addition to being the region’s economic driver, salmon represent a primary food source for the residents in remote towns and villages, most of whom are Yup’ik, Dena’ina and Alutiiq. Miranda Weiss, Wired, "In Alaska, Summer's Getting Too Hot for the Salmon Run," 13 June 2020 Earlier in the week, Nirenberg abandoned a push to reroute $40 million in sales taxes that pays to protect land over the city’s primary source of clean drinking water, the Edwards Aquifer, to fund more bus service and other transit initiatives. Joshua Fechter, ExpressNews.com, "San Antonio City Council OKs $191 million package for coronavirus relief," 4 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun May 19 primary was the first statewide election held by mail only. USA TODAY, "Mink worries, rumor patrol, paused reopenings: News from around our 50 states," 1 July 2020 May 19 primary was the first statewide election held by mail only. Tamara Lush, Anchorage Daily News, "States reverse openings, require masks amid virus resurgence," 30 June 2020 The rocky primary may be just a preview of the tempest to come in November, when the country faces a critical presidential election. Amelia Pak-harvey, The Indianapolis Star, "Thousands of Marion County ballots unreturned in primary election, roughly 1,800 rejected," 30 June 2020 Idaho's May 19 primary was the first statewide election held by mail only. Tamara Lush And Emily Schmall, The Christian Science Monitor, "Summer 2020: Sweaters off, but masks on as virus cases surge," 30 June 2020 The presidential primary, some activists say, was about finding a candidate best positioned to defeat Donald Trump. CBS News, "Progressive newcomers shake up status quo Democrats in primaries," 29 June 2020 The Democratic primary was a four-way race in which Webb secured 66.5 percent of the vote. Tyler Arnold, Washington Examiner, "Two newcomers will square off for Virginia's 5th Congressional District seat," 25 June 2020 Meanwhile, Booker — who hopes to win Tuesday's Democratic primary and face off against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November — and his campaign filed a last-minute injunction request to try to keep the polls there open longer. Matt Mencarini, The Courier-Journal, "Charles Booker injunction request helps reopen Louisville polls as voters pound on doors," 23 June 2020 Other opportunities for progressives Just north of Engel’s district, progressive candidate Mondaire Jones appears to be favorite to win the primary to succeed retiring longtime Rep. Nita Lowey in New York’s 17th Congressional District. Fox News, "Insurgents from the left threaten to upend Dem Party plans in Tuesday primaries," 23 June 2020

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 primarye, primary "original, earliest," borrowed from Latin prīmārius "of the highest importance or station (of persons), first-rate, chief" (Late Latin, "original, lying at the beginning," Medieval Latin, "foremost, leading"), from prīmus "first, foremost, earliest, of first importance" + -ārius -ary entry 2 — more at prime entry 2

Noun

in part borrowed from Late Latin prīmārius "person leading, leader," noun derivative of Latin prīmārius "of the highest importance or station, chief, primary entry 1"; in part noun derivative of primary entry 1, or shortened from collocations with the adjective; (sense 5) shortened from primary election, earlier primary assembly, translation of French assemblée primaire

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Time Traveler for primary

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for primary

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Primary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/primary. Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for primary

primary

adjective
How to pronounce primary (audio) How to pronounce primary (audio)

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 entry 2 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 primaries

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 primaries

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for primary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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