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
Then there’s the battle between Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum, two of the game’s brightest superstars who are entering their primes and trying to stake their claim as the best player in the world. Steven Johnson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5 June 2024 Soft Shell Crabs Soft shell crabs are available in five categories: mediums, hotels, primes, jumbos, and whales. Coastal Living, Southern Living, 4 June 2024
Adjective
For the problem of decomposing large numbers into their prime factors, for instance, this string represents the number to be factored. Ben Brubaker, Quanta Magazine, 3 June 2024 Boston is at once a prime example of what is going right in policing and of how much remains to be done. Troy Aidan Sambajon, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 May 2024
Verb
To some significant degree, Moore said, he was primed by his upbringing in a supportive household filled with music, art and books. Andres Viglucci, Miami Herald, 9 June 2024 Amidst playful banter and some trash talk, the pair’s energy primed an intimate crowd of fans of what to expect for Roots Picnic weekend: an electrifying blend of soulful performances, surprise guest appearances, and a celebration of hip-hop culture that promises unforgettable moments. Shelby Stewart, Essence, 4 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for prime 

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 20 Jun. 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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