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 Even great swaths of the wet Gondwana rainforests, the only living link to that primordial supercontinent, have burned. Tishani Doshi, WSJ, "A Brush With Fragile Bushland," 22 Jan. 2020 Sometime after the planets took shape from primordial gas and dust, resonant tugs between the giant planets threw their orbits out of kilter. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Cataclysmic bashing from giant planets occurred early in our Solar System's history," 21 Jan. 2020 The primordial heebie-jeebies—revulsion perceived variously in the spine, the molars, the bristling of hairs on the back of the neck—are conjured best with images that beam the feeling straight to the flesh. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "The Unbearable Softness of Engineered Fabrics," 21 Jan. 2020 Because of quantum uncertainty, any quantum field that filled the primordial universe would have fluctuated with ripples of all different wavelengths. Quanta Magazine, "A New Test for the Leading Big Bang Theory," 11 Sep. 2018 In the hours or days following the collision, that primordial material then re-accumulated not into a single comet but into several smaller bodies. Nola Taylor Redd,, "Rubber-Ducky Comets May Have Taken a Violent Beating," 3 May 2018 If future astronauts or a robot could obtain a sample and tease out its age, that may help reveal what was happening on Earth during the primordial period when life first emerged on our planet. Robin George Andrews, National Geographic, "Big volcanic bump unlike anything seen before found on the moon," 13 Dec. 2019 Strange nautical beasties — a mermaid, an octopus — keep washing up in the surf of Ephraim’s mind, awakening in him a dark, primordial energy. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe make a mad and mesmerizing duo in ‘The Lighthouse’," 16 Oct. 2019 Bursts of gamma rays may be the key to identifying whether this primordial black hole exists. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "If Planet 9 Is Actually a Black Hole, It Completely Changes How We Understand Our Universe," 1 Oct. 2019

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, from Late Latin primordialis, from Latin primordium origin, from primus first + ordiri to begin — more at prime, order

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Time Traveler for primordial

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

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Last Updated

29 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Primordial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 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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