pri·​me·​val prī-ˈmē-vəl How to pronounce primeval (audio)
: of or relating to the earliest ages (as of the world or human history) : ancient, primitive
100 acres of primeval forest which has never felt an axMary R. Zimmer
primevally adverb

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First things first. "Primeval" comes from the Latin words primus, meaning "first, and aevum, meaning "age." In Latin, those terms were brought together to form "primaevus," a word that means "of or relating to the earliest ages." Other English words that descend from "primus" include "prime" and "primary," "primordial" (a synonym of "primeval"), and "primitive." "Primus" also gave rise to some terms for folks who are number one in charge, including "prince" and "principal."

Examples of primeval in a Sentence

primeval forests slowly disappearing as the climate changed
Recent Examples on the Web The team explores whether the primeval microbes that built elaborate rock formations in an extensive cave system could be used for medical purposes. Leo Barraclough, Variety, 3 Apr. 2024 Thus the primeval power of sudden darkness in the daytime could lead to some future hit tunes, action film sequences or fantasy novels. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, 31 Mar. 2024 Ancient history About 3,000 years ago, primeval lawmakers on the seafaring island of Rhodes faced a conundrum. Nicole Goodkind, CNN, 31 Mar. 2024 The forests of the eastern United States are another puzzle: European settlers cut down 95 percent of the primeval woods, yet only four species of bird have gone extinct. John Fleischman, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 Enlarge Liu Yang On an island off the coast of New Zealand, in the shadows of a primeval forest, an eerie sound resonates through the night. Elizabeth Rayne, Ars Technica, 12 Sep. 2023 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California Time slows to a primeval pace in this giant sequoia grove, where 275-foot-tall statesmen have watched the seasons come and go for more than 2,000 years. Sarah L. Stewart, Travel + Leisure, 19 Oct. 2023 Each explosion was preceded by a primeval gurgle that gave way to bursts of lava. David Amsden, Travel + Leisure, 19 Aug. 2023 Blood Meridian and Stella Maris in particular enjoin it with the primeval, timeless forces that precede our own human origins. Caine O'Rear, Rolling Stone, 3 July 2023

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

Word History


primeve, in same sense, or its source, Late Latin prīmaevus "earliest, original, principal" (going back to Latin, "young, youthful," from prīmus "first, foremost, earliest" + -aevus, adjective derivative of aevum "age, lifetime") + -al entry 1 — more at prime entry 2, aye entry 3

First Known Use

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of primeval was in 1653


Dictionary Entries Near primeval

Cite this Entry

“Primeval.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


pri·​me·​val prī-ˈmē-vəl How to pronounce primeval (audio)
: belonging to the earliest time : primitive
primevally adverb

from Latin primaevus "relating to the very earliest ages," from primus "first" and aevum "age" — related to prime

More from Merriam-Webster on primeval

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