or especially for sense 1
-mət How to pronounce primate (audio)
often capitalized : a bishop who has precedence in a province, a group of provinces, or a nation
archaic : one first in authority or rank : leader
: any of an order (Primates) of mammals that are characterized especially by advanced development of binocular vision resulting in stereoscopic depth perception, specialization of the hands and feet for grasping, and enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and that include humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (such as lemurs and tarsiers)
primateship noun
primatial adjective

Examples of primate in a Sentence

the Primate of England and Wales
Recent Examples on the Web In each, the system predicted the hand movement of a non-human primate with an error rate below 0.1 percent, which is acceptable for brain-computer applications. IEEE Spectrum, 28 Mar. 2024 This Amazonian freshwater environment was nutrient-rich and teeming with life, home to crocodilians, turtles and fish, as well as mammals such as sloths, rodents, ungulates and primates. Mindy Weisberger, CNN, 26 Mar. 2024 Some carnivores, primates and hoofed mammals did have larger males. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Mar. 2024 These primates are technically called Skywalker hoolock gibbons and were named by a group of Star Wars-loving scientists in 2017, after observing them in southwestern China. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 14 Feb. 2024 From the dense canopies of rainforests to the open expanses of savannas and woodlands, these primates have shown an incredible ability to thrive in various environments. Jake Parks, Discover Magazine, 30 Jan. 2024 Kong unfreezes himself, and proves once again to be the fiercest primate around. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 28 Mar. 2024 These strategies, the authors argue, should work for any animal harboring viruses with spillover potential, including bats, birds, rodents and primates. Ari Daniel, NPR, 26 Mar. 2024 These sorts of episodes indicated that primates had cognition, Professor de Waal said. Alex Traub, New York Times, 20 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'primate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English primat, primate, borrowed from Anglo-French primat, primas, borrowed from Late Latin prīmāt-, prīmās "chief, superior, chief bishop," noun derivative of Latin prīmāt-, prīmās "of the highest rank, noble," from prīmus "first, foremost" + -āt-, -ās, adjective-forming suffix, originally from place names; (sense 3) after New Latin Primates (order name introduced by linnaeus), plural of Latin prīmās — more at prime entry 2

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of primate was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near primate

Cite this Entry

“Primate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


pri·​mate ˈprī-ˌmāt How to pronounce primate (audio)
 or especially for 1  -mət
: a bishop or archbishop of the highest rank in a district, nation, or church
: any of an order of mammals that are characterized by hands and feet that grasp, a relatively large complex brain, and vision in which objects are seen in three dimensions and that includes human beings, apes, monkeys, and related forms (as lemurs and tarsiers)

Medical Definition


pri·​mate ˈprī-ˌmāt How to pronounce primate (audio)
: any mammal of the order Primates

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