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 primordial (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 Muslim tradition dictates that the stone dates back to the prophet Adam, the primordial man, said al-Akiti. Eoin Mcsweeney, And Mostafa Salem, CNN, "The Black Stone of Mecca like you've never seen before," 4 May 2021 In fact, all cats—even lions and tigers—have primordial pouches, regardless of weight. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Those Flappy “Pouches” Cats Have on Their Stomachs Explained," 12 Apr. 2021 Most have assumed this implies that life arose very early on in Earth’s history, perhaps even during its most primordial stages. Ethan Siegel, Forbes, "Was Life On Earth Brought Here From An Alien System?," 7 Apr. 2021 Minimal cells could also provide insight into the origin of life by illuminating which capabilities were essential for primordial cells. Mitch Leslie, Science | AAAS, "Scientists coax cells with the world’s smallest genomes to reproduce normally," 29 Mar. 2021 One idea still in the running is that the missing matter is made of primordial black holes that formed soon after the big bang. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, "Dark Matter’s Last Stand," 18 Mar. 2021 The radiation from its star stripped it bare, leaving behind a rocky core not much different from a primordial Earth. Mike Wehner, BGR, "Hubble just spotted a planet that might be on its second atmosphere," 11 Mar. 2021 The primordial fight between good and evil is appealing because, in contrast to the complications of the real world, the good guy always wins. Rigoberto González, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Mexico City through the eyes of its leading novelist flaneur," 18 Mar. 2021 Ishiguro drapes realism like a thin cloth over a primordial cosmos. Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, "Kazuo Ishiguro’s Radiant Robot," 2 Mar. 2021

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

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Primordial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for primordial



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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