prime

1 of 3

noun

1
a
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
2
a
: 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 stallAlexander Pope
5
6
a
: 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
8

prime

2 of 3

adjective

1
: first in time : original
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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
primely adverb
primeness noun

prime

3 of 3

verb

primed; priming

transitive verb

1
: fill, load
2
a
: 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
4
a
: 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

intransitive verb

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
What my research indicates is that 1 in 4 adults in their prime who are not college educated are not working full time. Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Apr. 2024 The animation still pops up later for more personal recollections, but once the story gets into Clemente’s prime, there’s game film aplenty. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Mar. 2024 The reduction was greater among educated men in their prime, who worked an average of 44.3 fewer hours per year over the same time period. Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times, 4 Mar. 2024 In its best moments, the film is a fever dream of some three dozen geniuses in their prime. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, 22 Feb. 2024 RiRi has kept music on the back burner for several years now, and she’s only returned to the stage when presented with prime (and, at times, high-paying) opportunities that no major artist would want to refuse. Heran Mamo, Billboard, 28 Mar. 2024 The whole tenor of the statement was intended to establish an affinity between Kate and any other parent, anywhere, whose prime of life had just been invaded and upended by the bitterest of shocks. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2024 Some would call this hubris, others the swagger of a top athlete entering his prime in an Olympic year. Amanda Davies, CNN, 21 Mar. 2024 The board's role is to help decide which buildings to keep and update — and which ones not to — to avoid wasting money on upkeep of spaces that are past their prime. Journal Sentinel, 15 Mar. 2024
Adjective
Authorities on Monday reported traffic crashes and significant road delays across the country as thousands of people flocked to prime locations to gaze up at the rare solar eclipse. Christopher Cann, USA TODAY, 8 Apr. 2024 Today, with stores scattered around Los Angeles County — among them in Hollywood, Silver Lake, Mid-Wilshire, Santa Monica, Thai Town, North Hollywood and Glendale — the closure of 99 Cents Only will leave a number of large vacant properties in prime locations. Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times, 5 Apr. 2024 Backers of the endeavor have said for years that the flood control project is necessary to pull thousands of acres of prime real estate out of a flood plain. Luke Ranker, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2 Apr. 2024 Hill's impressive results with a small team put him in prime position to take over a ride fora championship contender. Joseph Wolkin, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Occupying a prime position on the banks of the Kiawah River, the Dunlin is named after a local shorebird and aims to showcase the natural beauty within this coastal enclave. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 29 Mar. 2024 Those who are not homeowners and who are allowed by their employers to work remotely are the prime candidates to leave, and many have already done so. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Mar. 2024 When the business moved to a new location in 2019, Luong was offered the lease to the building — a prime piece of real estate. Ella Gonzales, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 29 Mar. 2024 Sony Pictures‘ forthcoming drama feature Here, reuniting the creative forces behind Forrest Gump, is getting a prime awards season spot on the theatrical calendar. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Mar. 2024
Verb
Painted over it, primed over it, but that didn’t help. Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone, 11 Apr. 2024 Taylor Mims: Since roughly the Grammy awards in early February, big stars have been priming fans for a big year. Jason Lipshutz, Billboard, 9 Apr. 2024 In 2024, that strategy has been primed and polished. David Gilbert, WIRED, 8 Apr. 2024 Esser, who has pioneered research in this area, says muscle clocks are key in guiding when the cell takes a break to rest and repair, including storing up energy, and when to get primed for activity. Will Stone, NPR, 29 Mar. 2024 Conclusions The future of inference is clearly steering towards the edge, where privacy and essentially free compute is primed and ready. Karl Freund, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 Already primed for corporate disillusion thanks to the pandemic, Gen Z is not only watching people their age be let go, but also peers senior to them who have spent decades with a company. Eleanor Pringle, Fortune, 23 Mar. 2024 Accelerating climate change, coupled with a century of suppression of wildfire, has created thick stands of trees primed to burn across much of the American West. ProPublica, 16 Mar. 2024 With organic content, businesses are primed to attract more traffic to their websites. Rachel Kule, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

Adjective

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.)

Verb

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.

First Known Use

Noun

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

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1513, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near prime

Cite this Entry

“Prime.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prime. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

prime

1 of 3 noun
1
: the first part : the earliest stage
2
: the most vigorous, prosperous, or satisfying stage or period
in the prime of one's life
3
: the best individual or part
4
5
: the symbol ′

prime

2 of 3 adjective
1
: first in time : original
2
a
: of, relating to, or being a prime number
b
: expressed as a product of prime factors
the prime factorization of 12 is 2 · 2 · 3
3
a
: first in rank or importance
our prime responsibility
b
: being highest in quality or value
prime farmland
c
: of the highest grade of meat
prime beef

prime

3 of 3 verb
primed; priming
1
: to get ready for firing by putting in priming
prime a rifle
2
: to put a first color or coating on (an unpainted surface)
3
: to put into working order by filling
prime a pump
4
: to make (someone) ready to do something
teams primed to win
Etymology

Noun

Old English prīm "a religious service for the first hour of the day," from Latin prima (hora) "first (hour)," from primus "first" — related to premier, prima donna, primeval, prince

Legal Definition

prime

1 of 2 noun

prime

2 of 2 transitive verb
primed; priming
: to have priority over
a perfected security interest primes an unperfected one

More from Merriam-Webster on prime

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