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)

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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

Michael Stern, curator of primates and small mammals, told The Associated Press that workers had to install a fire hose over a mud puddle in the yard. David Caraccio, sacbee, "This video of gorilla walking like a human goes viral | The Sacramento Bee," 20 Mar. 2018 Essentially the meat allergy is an allergy to the alpha-gal carbohydrate that's found in cows, pigs, sheep and other non-primates, but not humans. CBS News, "Red meat allergy transmitted by lone star ticks on the rise," 5 July 2018 In ancient China, gibbons held a special place among primates in the eyes of humans, the scientists said. Amina Khan,, "Extinct species of gibbon discovered in an unlikely place — the tomb of a Chinese noblewoman," 22 June 2018 The Motive Infanticide, or killing infants, has been observed in terrestrial species likes primates and rodents, but the only marine mammal species known to show the behavior are other dolphins. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "First Case of Orca Infanticide Observed," 22 Mar. 2018 Michael Stern, curator of primates and small mammals, says workers had to install a fire hose over a mud puddle in the yard., "Gorilla at Philadelphia Zoo Takes Stand Against Dirty Hands," 16 Mar. 2018 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

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.

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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

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Statistics for primate

Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for primate

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

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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

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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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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