pri·​me·​val | \ prī-ˈmē-vəl How to pronounce primeval (audio) \

Definition of primeval

1 : 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 ax— Mary R. Zimmer

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Other Words from primeval

primevally \ prī-​ˈmē-​və-​lē How to pronounce primevally (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for primeval



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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 An illicit trade that begins in the primeval forests takes many of the birds to Indonesia’s teeming capital, Jakarta, where they are entered into high-stakes singing competitions at which government officials frequently preside. Richard C. Paddock, New York Times, "Bought for a Song: An Indonesian Craze Puts Wild Birds at Risk," 18 Apr. 2020 The woodland has a strangely serene, primeval feel. Brian Barth, Popular Science, "The secret to curbing farm emissions is buried in the Stone Age," 1 Apr. 2020 Millions of years ago, primeval plants drew energy from the sun to grow. Rhett Allain, Wired, "How Long Could the World Run on Geothermal Power?," 10 Mar. 2020 Gooseflesh erupted over my entire body at once, and a primal, primeval wave of utter terror flickered through my lizard brain, utterly dislodging every rational thought in my head. David Canfield,, "Jim Butcher offers a sneak peek of upcoming novel Peace Talks," 16 Jan. 2020 The dancers wear costumes made by Jasper Johns, the company’s artistic advisor from 1967 until 1980: skin-tight, fleshy leotards and tights, ripped and cut irregularly, which heighten the primeval sensation. Melissa Harris, The New York Review of Books, "‘That Single Fleeting Moment’: Merce Cunningham in Images," 11 Jan. 2020 This primeval realm is populated by a group of outcasts, led by a warrior, Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor), sympathetic to the newcomer's antipathy for the nasty queen. Todd Mccarthy, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil': Film Review," 15 Oct. 2019 Where else could aficionados of rock expect to hear in one place Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane and those other lineal descendants of the primeval Beatles? New York Times, "Woodstock 1969: A Story Vastly Bigger Than Editors Realized," 9 Aug. 2019 These naked pieces of genetic information swapped genes at a primeval genetic flea market, appropriating hand-me-downs from other elements and discarding genes that were no longer needed. Quanta Magazine, "Hints of Life’s Start Found in a Giant Virus," 10 July 2014

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

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First Known Use of primeval

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for primeval

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

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The first known use of primeval was in 1653

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Cite this Entry

“Primeval.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for primeval


How to pronounce primeval (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of primeval

: very old or ancient
formal : basic and powerful


pri·​me·​val | \ prī-ˈmē-vəl How to pronounce primeval (audio) \

Kids Definition of primeval

: belonging to the earliest time : primitive … wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest …— Jack London, The Call of the Wild

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with primeval

Spanish Central: Translation of primeval

Nglish: Translation of primeval for Spanish Speakers

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