pri·​mate | \ ˈprī-ˌmāt or especially for sense 1 -mət How to pronounce primate (audio) \

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 : 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 How to pronounce primate (audio) \ noun
primatial \ prī-​ˈmā-​shəl How to pronounce primate (audio) \ adjective

Examples of primate in a Sentence

the Primate of England and Wales
Recent Examples on the Web Researchers first captured this pocket-sized primate during a survey of northeast Madagascar in 2006. Cat Kutz, Smithsonian Magazine, "These Conservation Stories Prove 2020 Was Not All Bad News," 14 Dec. 2020 Two days later, the 21-year-old primate was found wandering in a Daly City preschool, just hours before McGilloway was taken into custody. Matthias Gafni,, "Suspect in theft of Maki the lemur ordered released, told to stay away from San Francisco Zoo," 5 Jan. 2021 But Touhara and his team had good reason to go looking for a potential primate pheromone in lemurs. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "For Male Lemurs, Love Stinks—and Scientists Now Know Why," 20 Apr. 2020 However, the researchers behind the paper, published in the journal Toxins, didn’t actually study cats or humans to generate their hypothesis, instead focusing on a venomous primate called a slow loris. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Does a Study of Slow Lorises Actually Say About Cat Allergies?," 19 Feb. 2020 The baby primate was born to mother Charlie at the zoo on Nov. 17, according to the release. Marcy De Luna, Chron, "Houston Zoo welcomes baby howler monkey named Marlie," 17 Dec. 2020 However, this was the first time the gene was used in a non-human primate and with typical human levels of expression, further suggesting the gene played a key role in our evolution. Tim Childers, Popular Mechanics, "Uh-Oh, Scientists Used Human Genes to Make Monkey Brains Bigger," 16 Nov. 2020 The brewery’s friendly, smiling and impish-looking primate was done by a 9-year-old in a few minutes. Marc Bona, cleveland, "Blue Monkey Brewing Co. settles into North Royalton location," 17 Nov. 2020 In an experiment that could portend a real-life Planet of the Apes situation, scientists spliced human genes into the fetus of a monkey to substantially increase the size of the primate’s brain. Tim Childers, Popular Mechanics, "Uh-Oh, Scientists Used Human Genes to Make Monkey Brains Bigger," 16 Nov. 2020

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, 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

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Time Traveler for primate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for primate

Last Updated

13 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Primate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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


pri·​mate | \ ˈprī-ˌmāt How to pronounce primate (audio) \

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 How to pronounce primate (audio) \

Medical Definition of primate

: any mammal of the order Primates

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More from Merriam-Webster on primate

Nglish: Translation of primate for Spanish Speakers

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

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