pri·mate | \ˈprī-ˌmāt or especially for sense 1 -mət \

Definition of primate 

1 often capitalized : a bishop who has precedence in a province, a group of provinces, or a nation

2 archaic : one first in authority or rank : leader

3 [ New Latin Primates, from Latin, plural of primat-, primas ] : 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)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from primate

primateship \ˈprī-ˌmāt-ˌship \ noun
primatial \prī-ˈmā-shəl \ adjective

Examples of primate in a Sentence

the Primate of England and Wales

Recent Examples on the Web

Then there are the remarkable achievements of Koko and her primate predecessors, including a chimp delightfully named Nim Chimpsky. The Economist, "What Koko the gorilla could and couldn’t do," 5 July 2018 Ethograms, a kind of specialized inventory, are traditionally intended for observing nonhuman primate groups in the field of ethology, the study of an evolution of a species. Orly Nadell Farber, STAT, "‘You, me, parking lot!’: Behind surgical curtain, researchers find hierarchies and gender dynamics driving conflict," 2 July 2018 But the case for J. imperialis was solid enough to get through peer review, and this wouldn’t be the first time a primate species has been accepted on the basis of a single example. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Extinct gibbon in ancient Chinese tomb hints at other lost primate species," 22 June 2018 Some researchers believe this kind of primate devastation is a recent affair. National Geographic, "Ancient Royal Tomb Yields Strange New Ape Species," 21 June 2018 Cheyne works at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in primate conservation. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Extinct gibbon discovered in an ancient tomb. It might have been a pet.," 21 June 2018 Chemical analysis of her teeth shows that, as far back as 4 million years ago, the diets of hominins suddenly became much more diversified than other primates. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "How Ancient Teeth Reveal The Roots of Humankind," 2 July 2018 Humans and other primates often reciprocate good deeds. Christopher Intagliata, Scientific American, "Mongooses Gift Grooming for Guard Duty," 1 June 2018 Other predator groups such as bats, primates, shrews, hedgehogs, frogs, salamanders and lizards also seem to be valuable bug eaters but are less effective natural enemies of plant-eating insects. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "Yum! Birds eat up to 550 million tons of insects each year," 9 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'primate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of primate

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for primate

Middle English primat, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin primat-, primas archbishop, from Latin, leader, from primus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about primate

Statistics for primate

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for primate

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for primate



English Language Learners Definition of primate

: any member of the group of animals that includes human beings, apes, and monkeys

: the highest ranking priest in a particular country or area in some Christian churches (such as the Church of England)


pri·mate | \ˈprī-ˌmāt \

Kids Definition of primate

: any of a group of mammals that includes humans together with the apes and monkeys and a few related forms


pri·mate | \ˈprī-ˌmāt \

Medical Definition of primate 

: any mammal of the order Primates

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on primate

Spanish Central: Translation of primate

Nglish: Translation of primate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of primate for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about primate

Comments on primate

What made you want to look up primate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!