primer

1 of 2

noun (1)

prim·​er ˈpri-mər How to pronounce primer (audio)
 chiefly British  ˈprī-mə
1
: a small book for teaching children to read
2
: a small introductory book on a subject
3
: a short informative piece of writing

primer

2 of 2

noun (2)

prim·​er ˈprī-mər How to pronounce primer (audio)
1
: a device for priming
especially : a cap, tube, or wafer containing percussion powder or compound used to ignite an explosive charge
2
: material used in priming a surface

called also prime coat

3
: a molecule (such as a short strand of RNA or DNA) whose presence is required for formation of another molecule (such as a longer chain of DNA)

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Did you know?

Primers were once a standard part of every child's education. The first primer printed in North America, The New England Primer (ca. 1690), was typical; it contained many quotations from the Bible and many moral lessons, and the text was accompanied by numerous woodcut illustrations. We no longer use the word in early education, but it's widely used in everyday speech. Notice how primer is pronounced; don't mix it up with the kind of paint that's pronounced with a long *i *sound.

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Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Here is a primer on the history of Syria’s chemical stockpile, the effort to eliminate it and experts’ views on the new attack. Scott Shane, New York Times, 7 Apr. 2017 And Sundance Now offers a film primer in preparation for the Trump presidency. Kathryn Shattuck, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2017 And Sundance Now offers a film primer in preparation for the Trump presidency. Kathryn Shattuck, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2017 Waldman really is a nerd (in a good way), and her book is an engaging and deeply researched primer on a taboo subject and a compelling case for more research on it. Nora Krug, Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2017 Give a volunteer a smart, witty, only occasionally poky primer on the science of reading. David Kipen, New York Times, 28 Dec. 2016 (Quick primer: Shingles results from the same virus that causes chickenpox, which nearly all older Americans have had. Paula Span, New York Times, 2 Dec. 2016 Mr. Judah, a reporter for the Economist, also offers a travelogue, a primer on Ukrainian culture and an oral history of the country. Sohrab Ahmari, WSJ, 13 Oct. 2016 Lawmakers face an Oct. 31 deadline to choose a primer minister; otherwise, parliament would be dissolved and a new one elected in December. Jeannette Neumann, WSJ, 2 Oct. 2016 See More

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

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Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English, "layperson's prayer book," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin prīmārius, prīmārium, noun derivatives from masculine and neuter of prīmārius "lying at the beginning, primary entry 1"

Noun (2)

prime entry 3 + -er entry 2

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1650, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of primer was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near primer

Cite this Entry

“Primer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/primer. Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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Kids Definition

primer

noun

prim·​er ˈpri-mər How to pronounce primer (audio)
1
: a small book for teaching children to read
2
: a book or other writing that introduces a subject

Medical Definition

primer

noun

prim·​er ˈprī-mər How to pronounce primer (audio)
: a molecule (as a short strand of RNA or DNA) whose presence is required for formation of another molecule (as a longer chain of DNA)

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