pri·​mor·​di·​al | \ prī-ˈmȯr-dē-əl How to pronounce primordial (audio) \

Definition of primordial

1a : first created or developed : primeval sense 1
b : existing in or persisting from the beginning (as of a solar system or universe) a primordial gas cloud
c : earliest formed in the growth of an individual or organ : primitive primordial cells
2 : fundamental, primary primordial human joys— Sir Winston Churchill

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Other Words from primordial

primordially \ prī-​ˈmȯr-​dē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce primordially (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for primordial



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The history of "primordial" began when the Latin words primus (meaning "first") and "ordiri" (meaning "to begin") came together to form "primordium," the Latin word for "origin." When it entered English in the 14th century, "primordial" was used in the general sense "primeval." Early on, there were hints that "primordial" would lend itself well to discussions of the earth's origins. Take, for instance, this passage from a 1398 translation of an encyclopedia called On the Properties of Things: "The virtu of God made primordial mater, in the whiche as it were in massy thinge the foure elementis were . . . nought distinguishd." Nowadays, primordial matter is often referred to in evolutionary theory as "primordial soup," a mixture of organic molecules from which life on earth originated.

Examples of primordial in a Sentence

all life on Earth supposedly came from a primordial ooze in existence many millions of years ago
Recent Examples on the Web The first killing freeze last year was unusually early, and that damaged a lot of primordial flower buds on many types of late-winter and early-spring-flowering plants. Neil Sperry,, "Neil Sperry: Hydrangeas not blooming? You’re not alone," 1 Oct. 2020 Moreover, cosmologists didn’t really seem to need primordial black holes. Quanta Magazine, "Physicists Argue That Black Holes From the Big Bang Could Be the Dark Matter," 23 Sep. 2020 The primordial evidence—the hides of Stone Age peoples—has long since turned to dust. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "In Myanmar, everyone swears by this natural skin cosmetic," 2 Sep. 2020 The telescope, which cost tens of millions of dollars, will search for primordial gravitational waves to advance our understanding of the very early universe—the moments just after the Big Bang. Raghu Karnad, The New Yorker, "The Clear Night Sky Over India and China’s Hostile Border," 19 Sep. 2020 While some economists imagine primordial villages and basic agricultural systems where birds are exchanged for flowers to illustrate the history of money, Abel and Bernanke come up with something much more immediate: The economist is hungry. Matthew Zeitlin, The New Republic, "How David Graeber Changed the Way We See Money," 4 Sep. 2020 The black holes could be primordial, having hung around since the maelstrom of the early universe before the first stars were born. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Middleweight black holes finally found but they pose a puzzle," 2 Sep. 2020 The typical explanation is that life emerged from a bunch of organic molecules slamming into each other in a roiling primordial ooze and gradually formed more complex molecules. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "A Ball of Bacteria Survived for 3 Years ... in Space!," 26 Aug. 2020 In northeastern Wyoming, peat that settled 60 million years ago in primordial bogs compressed into a vast seam of coal just under the surface. Doug Struck, The Christian Science Monitor, "Power pivot: What happens in states where wind dethrones King Coal?," 21 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'primordial.' 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 primordial

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for primordial

Middle English, borrowed from Late Latin prīmōrdiālis, from Latin prīmōrdium (in plural prīmōrdia) "beginnings, origin, source, elementary stage" (from prīmus "first, earliest" + ōrd-, base of ōrdīrī "to lay a warp for weaving, embark on, begin" + -ium, deverbal suffix of function or state) + -ālis -al entry 1 — more at prime entry 2, order entry 2

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The first known use of primordial was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

11 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Primordial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for primordial


How to pronounce primordial (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of primordial

formal : existing from the beginning of time : very ancient


pri·​mor·​di·​al | \ prī-ˈmȯrd-ē-əl How to pronounce primordial (audio) \

Medical Definition of primordial

: earliest formed in the growth of an individual or organ : primitive the primordial skeleton

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