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

The unusual structure has long made bitcoin a primary means of payment for drugs on online black markets, and more recently as a method for making ransom payments. BostonGlobe.com, "How Russian spies hid behind bitcoin in hacking campaign," 14 July 2018 The unusual structure has long made Bitcoin a primary means of payment for drugs on online black markets, and more recently as a method for making ransom payments. New York Times, "How Russian Spies Hid Behind Bitcoin in Hacking Campaign," 13 July 2018 Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images The Democrats’ intraparty fight over how robust their progressive agenda should be began during the 2016 primary contest, and has only accelerated since then, prompting a broader party shift to the left. Reid J. Epstein, WSJ, "Rift Emerges Among Democrats Over Leftward Shift," 13 July 2018 That can be significant, given that turnout figures often are low; in fact, only one in six registered Philadelphians actually voted in May’s primary election. Jonathan Lai, Philly.com, "Online voter registration in Pa., three years in: More than 1 in 5 voters register online," 12 July 2018 Obama has taken up congressional redistricting as a primary cause since his departure from the White House to challenge the Republican majorities in Congress. Kristine Guillaume, CBS News, "Obama stars in promo for Eric Holder's anti-gerrymandering group," 11 July 2018 Graham’s primary goal is to persuade the university to pay some of the bills. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Ice hockey on campus? University of Louisville has 'preliminary' chat," 10 July 2018 In Florida, many voters remain undecided about what the best leadership approach is — and who the best leader is out of the five-person Democratic gubernatorial primary pack. Ali Vitali /, NBC News, "Gwen Graham, the only woman running for Florida gov, hopes to break the glass ceiling," 7 July 2018 There will be a few new faces and many familiar ones on Harford County’s two state central committees following last week’s primary election. Staff Report, The Aegis, "Harford central committees will have new, several old faces," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In Howard County, a Democratic primary for county council was decided by six votes. Michael Dresser, baltimoresun.com, "Thousands of Maryland voters may have skipped primary because of MVA election error," 13 July 2018 Rouda narrowly prevailed in a hard-fought primary to take on Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the fall. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Democrats push for unity in California House races after bruising primary," 13 July 2018 Ocasio-Cortez beat Crowley, a top-ranking House Democrat and local powerbroker, in a stunning upset in a primary late last month. NBC News, "Still no concession call? Ocasio-Cortez, Crowley trade barbs in primary aftermath," 12 July 2018 The highest turnout for a gubernatorial primary in the state’s modern era was in 1978, when almost 69% of registered voters showed up. John Myers, latimes.com, "California's primary election saw higher turnout than recent years, but most voters still skipped it," 10 July 2018 The winner will go on to face whoever emerges from a three-way Democratic primary in the November general election. Todd Richmond, The Seattle Times, "Bank fires Wisconsin candidate who wouldn’t quit race," 9 July 2018 Among them were leaders of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose national fame has been growing since one of its members upset the Democratic incumbent in a New York primary last month. Avi Selk, BostonGlobe.com, "Mitch McConnell pursued from Kentucky restaurant by angry crowd," 8 July 2018 There was a big upset in a primary for a congressional seat in New York City, where Joseph Crowley, one of the Democrats’ leaders in the House, was defeated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old socialist. The Economist, "Politics this week," 28 June 2018 On Tuesday, Cardin handily won a primary in his bid for a third Senate term, beating convicted leaker Chelsea Manning and six other longshot challengers. Bloomberg.com, "Ben Cardin Wins Maryland Senate Democratic Primary Over Chelsea Manning," 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

9 Oct 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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Comments on primary

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