primary

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

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

4a : primary color

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

His primary win was a watershed moment for progressive groups, but also for black Democrats in the South; next door, Stacey Abrams is the Democratic nominee in Georgia. Ella Nilsen, Vox, "Florida governor’s election live results: Andrew Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis," 7 Nov. 2018 Vukmir didn’t do well in northern Wisconsin in her primary win, which was fueled by strong support in southeast Wisconsin. Scott Bauer, The Seattle Times, "Trump turns focus to Wisconsin’s races for Senate, governor," 23 Oct. 2018 In a very on-brand podcast interview, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke on her primary win and the future of the Democratic Party — all while throwing a few punches. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Thinks "Saltine Cracker" Politics Won't Win Elections for Democrats," 8 Aug. 2018 Kobach is trying to unseat Colyer in the state’s Aug. 7 primary and issued a statement as Colyer was being interviewed, criticizing both the university and Colyer. Washington Post, "Kansas officials seek altered US flag’s removal from museum," 12 July 2018 Gonzalez and Massie have agreed to a $1.5 million spending limit for the primary and are thus eligible for public funds. Joshua Miller, BostonGlobe.com, "Gonzalez, Massie get cash infusion from public financing," 12 July 2018 Under a bill first introduced last year, separate random drawings would have been held for the primary and for the general election. Jim Morrill, charlotteobserver, "How a small change in the law could have a big impact on NC's Supreme Court race," 6 July 2018 Andy and Robyn Kuehler watched flames approach their cabin via surveillance video from their primary residence in Nebraska. CBS News, "Colorado wildfire destroys more than 100 homes; "extreme caution" urged across West," 4 July 2018 Winners conduct international graduate study, research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. Lisa Maria Garza, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Celebration High School alumna to teach Malaysian kids English on Fulbright scholarship," 3 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Club for Growth is a hardline conservative group that has gleefully challenged Republican incumbents in primaries. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Peter Thiel cut his largest check to the GOP since Trump’s 2016 win," 19 Oct. 2018 But first, the party must pick its nominee at the close of a brutal primary. Paul Steinhauser, Fox News, "Republicans see glimmer of hope in raucous, crowded, nasty New Hampshire House race," 10 Sep. 2018 After the September 13 primary, the winner of the Democratic primary will move forward to the general election in November. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "Cynthia Nixon Challenged Andrew Cuomo on Legalizing Pot and Medicare for All at Their Only Scheduled Debate," 30 Aug. 2018 Going into Tuesday’s flurry of midterm primaries, 162 women had already been nominated this election year. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Tuesday's Primaries Lead to Historic Number of Women Nominees for Governor and Congress," 8 Aug. 2018 The winner of next month's Democratic primary will face the Republican primary winner in November. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bice: Ironworker Randy Bryce being paid undisclosed amount by Democratic firm," 11 July 2018 The deadline for Ramirez to decide on a possible recount was 5 p.m. on Tuesday, five days after the registrar certified the results of the June 5 primary. David Garrick, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Candidate won't seek recount in battle for slot in San Diego council runoff," 10 July 2018 Decision 2018 NBC News spent time with the former Democratic congresswoman — and daughter of the state's former Senator and governor — ahead of the August primaries. Ali Vitali /, NBC News, "Gwen Graham, the only woman running for Florida gov, hopes to break the glass ceiling," 7 July 2018 New Hampshire is traditionally the home of the first presidential primary on the calendar. James Pindell, BostonGlobe.com, "Seth Moulton is returning to New Hampshire. How much should we read into that?," 28 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

4 Dec 2018

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)

: 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, -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, ˈprīm-(ə-)rē \

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 \

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 \ 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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