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


ancient, early, primal, primitive, primordial



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Did You Know?

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

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 Beneath its artificial shine lies dark, primeval swampland; a gulf divides the seen from the unseen. The Economist, "Lauren Groff’s short stories pulse with hidden malevolence," 21 June 2018 Huddling around a campfire and eating gooey marshmallows and warm chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers may feel like primeval traditions. Jeffrey Miller, Smithsonian, "Let Us Tell You S’more About America’s Favorite Campfire Treat," 29 June 2018 My wife, Flora, has become inured to the novelty of a beach littered with primeval relics. David Shaftel, New York Times, "Searching for Dinosaurs in a Seaside English Town," 23 May 2018 The problem is structural: the root of tribalism is human nature, and the current state of American democracy is distinctly primeval. The Economist, "The primeval tribalism of American politics," 24 May 2018 In the Rainbow Rain is kind of a primeval album, in a way. Morgan Enos, Billboard, "Okkervil River on Autobiographical Song 'Famous Tracheotomies': 'There's Certainly a Gratitude for Being Alive'," 16 Apr. 2018 Surely some primeval part of our brain is instinctively attuned to the inspirational allure of the night sky. Alan Hirshfeld, WSJ, "‘Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine’ Review: A Longing for Truth and Meaning," 6 Apr. 2018 Situated on 20,000 acres, Palmetto Bluff, a residential resort community in Bluffton, looks out over centuries-old live oak trees, primeval estuaries and 32 miles of river coastline at the confluence of the May, Cooper and New Rivers. Smithsonian, "Learn more about the Conservancy at Palmetto Bluff," 1 Apr. 2018

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

Latin primaevus, from primus first + aevum age — more at aye

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Statistics for primeval

Last Updated

21 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for primeval

The first known use of primeval was in 1653

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More Definitions for primeval



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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More from Merriam-Webster on primeval

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with primeval

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for primeval

Spanish Central: Translation of primeval

Nglish: Translation of primeval for Spanish Speakers

Comments on primeval

What made you want to look up primeval? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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