\ ˈprīm How to pronounce prime (audio) \

Definition of prime

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a often capitalized : the second of the canonical hours
b : the first hour of the day usually considered either as 6 a.m. or the hour of sunrise
2a : the earliest stage
b : spring
c : youth
3 : the most active, thriving, or satisfying stage or period in the prime of his life
4 : the chief or best individual or part : pick prime of the flock, and choicest of the stall— Alexander Pope
6a : the first note or tone of a musical scale : tonic
b : the interval between two notes on the same staff degree
7 : the symbol ′ used to distinguish arbitrary characters (such as a and a′), to indicate a specific unit (such as feet or minutes of time or angular measure), or to indicate the derivative of a function (such as p′ or f′(x)) — compare double prime



Definition of prime (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : first in time : original
2a : of, relating to, or being a prime number — compare relatively prime
b : having no polynomial factors other than itself and no monomial factors other than 1 a prime polynomial
c : expressed as a product of prime factors (such as prime numbers and prime polynomials) a prime factorization
3a : first in rank, authority, or significance : principal a prime example
b : having the highest quality or value prime farmland
c : of the highest grade regularly marketed used of meat and especially beef
4 : not deriving from something else : primary


primed; priming

Definition of prime (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : fill, load
2a : to prepare for firing by supplying with priming
b : to insert a primer into (a cartridge case)
3 : to apply the first color, coating, or preparation to prime a wall
4a : to put into working order by filling or charging with something prime a pump with water
b : to supply with an essential prerequisite (such as a hormone, nucleic acid, or antigen) for chemical or biological activity primed female mice with estrogen
5 : to instruct beforehand : coach primed the witness
6 : stimulate

intransitive verb

: to become prime
prime the pump
: to take steps to encourage the growth or functioning of something

Other Words from prime


primely adverb
primeness noun

Examples of prime in a Sentence

Noun young college graduates in the prime of life The interest rate is two percent plus prime. Adjective The wine industry is of prime importance to the California economy. The police have not yet named the prime suspect in the murder investigation. The house is expensive because it's in a prime location. Verb She was obviously primed for the questions at the press conference. Both teams are primed for battle and ready to play. We sanded and primed the woodwork before painting. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Brennan: One part of this ecosystem is the highlight reel, which was in its prime in the 1990s. Matt Brennantelevision Editor, Los Angeles Times, 8 May 2022 During his prime in the mid-2010s, Jordan was an athletic, rim-running lob threat. Bryan Toporek, Forbes, 3 May 2022 With its proximity to Rockefeller Center, Hurley's became quite the watering hole for NBC bigwigs including Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, and David Letterman during its prime. Meredith Lepore, Travel + Leisure, 24 Apr. 2022 The Blazers flipped their roster upside down this season following a poor start in order to retool around Lillard in hopes of making a run at a championship before his prime comes to an end. oregonlive, 15 Apr. 2022 The Cable Guy stars Jim Carrey in his absolute prime (and is directed by Ben Stiller), but don't go expecting the light-hearted fun of Dumb and Dumber or Ace Ventura; this is a dark comedy that even veers toward thriller territory at times. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 12 Apr. 2022 Local guy, Georgia boy, big bat, still hasn’t reached his prime (theoretically as a 27-year-old). Daniel Kohn, SPIN, 6 Apr. 2022 Despite their talk of returning the hotel to its prime, the owners have made no commitments. New York Times, 17 Jan. 2022 At that time, the neighborhood was past its prime as a fashionable neighborhood; large, old houses converted into rental units were congenial and affordable to people in the arts. Paula Allen, San Antonio Express-News, 20 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective So, titles aside, J.Lo's outfit is a prime example of the ideal white summer dress to wear while running errands or attending picnics and brunches. Claire Harmeyer,, 16 May 2022 Traffic control is a prime example of how this data can be used. Alexander Shevchenko, Forbes, 13 May 2022 Forman says her unique role in nursing is the prime example of the reality that nurses can be found anywhere — from homes to doctor’s offices to hospitals and even to the skies over our heads. San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 May 2022 There’s a right way to go about things and a wrong way, and this was a prime example of absolutely the wrong way. Tony M Fountain, Rolling Stone, 11 May 2022 Noma Copley is the prime example of surrealist playfulness from the '60s and '70s, and yet her pieces are also entirely contemporary. Rosa Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 10 May 2022 As a prime example, one of Hayward’s main contributions to the Ukrainian cause may be tinkering together an alternate battery system for a complex missile launcher. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 7 May 2022 The suite is a prime example of the innovative and eclectic designs emanating from some of the West’s newest hotels. Kristin Scharkey, Sunset Magazine, 6 May 2022 Smith sees this as a prime example of the potential insights to be gained from studying latent viruses like herpes., 5 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Inoculations provide solid protection against hospitalization and death because the shots prime the immune system to fight off invaders, resulting in less severe disease. Sarah Toy, WSJ, 15 Jan. 2022 McGrady said improving the train station could prime the area for private investment and bring easier access to food for local residents. James Whitlow,, 1 Sep. 2021 Moves like high knees and butt kicks—which are exaggerated versions of a running stride—are a good way to prime your body. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, 21 Feb. 2022 These actions prime the stage for innovative solutions in the debrief (insights review) meeting that may go by the wayside if met with defensiveness. Simone E. Morris, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 These workouts prime the muscles and central nervous system to work powerfully and quickly, even when fatigued. Jason Fitzgerald, Outside Online, 13 Apr. 2019 However, it’s not the ending of a story that seems to prime the brain to create a new memory. Tino Delamerced, STAT, 10 Mar. 2022 Arctic air in place ahead of the winter storm will prime the region for snow with below-freezing temperatures in place ahead of the storm. NBC News, 26 Jan. 2022 Movement leaders will leverage their organizations to prime the base for the Big Lie. Katherine Stewart, The New Republic, 10 Jan. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of prime


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1513, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for prime


Middle English, going back to Old English prīm, borrowed from Medieval Latin prīma (short for Latin prīma hōra "first hour"), from feminine of Latin prīmus "first, earliest"; in senses other than sense 1 borrowed in part from Latin prīmum "first part, beginning stages" (in plural prīma) or prīmus "notable person, leading citizen," noun derivatives of prīmus, adjective — more at prime entry 2


Middle English, "first, original, in an initial stage," borrowed from Anglo-French, originally feminine of prim "first, earliest, original, main, most important," going back to Latin prīmus "first" (ordinal corresponding to ūnus "one, foremost, earliest, of first importance, of the highest quality,") going back to earlier *prīsmos, syncopated from *prīsomos, from dialectal Indo-European *pri "in front, before" + *-is-m̥mo-, superlative suffix (from *-is-, comparative suffix + *-m̥mo-, superlative suffix) — more at prior entry 2

Note: The combined comparative-superlative suffix *-is-m̥mo- as a productive superlative suffix is peculiar to Italic and Celtic. The assumption that *-is-m̥mo- yields *-isomo- in Latin (rather than *-em- or *-am-) is based on Michael Weiss, Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin (Beech Stave Press, 2011), p. 105. (Weiss suggests as a prime example homō "man, human," from *ǵhm̥mō.)


of uncertain origin

Note: Possibly a derivative of prime entry 2, if priming something was taken to mean performing an essential preliminary stage. However, if early uses meaning simply "to load, fill" (earliest in Scots, in Gavin Douglas's translation of the Aeneid, 1513) are the original senses, the painting and weapons senses may be by secondary association with prime entry 2 and its etymons. Supporting the hypothesis of an original meaning "load" would be the apparent derivative primage "money paid by a shipper to a captain for care of the cargo," attested as English in 1476, and as Latin primagium as early as 1297. Compare in the same sense prime-gilt (earliest in Scots, 1576), alongside Middle High German primegelt, primgelt (1468) and Middle Dutch priemgelt (1460), with gelt "money." However, none of these words lead any closer to the origin of the English verb.

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The first known use of prime was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near prime

prima volta


prime cost

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prime.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for prime


\ ˈprīm How to pronounce prime (audio) \

Kids Definition of prime

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: the period in life when a person is best in health, looks, or strength



Kids Definition of prime (Entry 2 of 3)

: first in importance, rank, or quality Spring is a prime season to work outdoors.


primed; priming

Kids Definition of prime (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to put a first color or coating on Prime the wall before painting.
2 : to put into working order by filling prime a pump
3 : to make (someone or something) ready The coach is priming him to be quarterback.



Legal Definition of prime

 (Entry 1 of 2)


transitive verb
primed; priming

Legal Definition of prime (Entry 2 of 2)

: to have priority over a perfected security interest primes an unperfected one

More from Merriam-Webster on prime

Nglish: Translation of prime for Spanish Speakers

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


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