pri·​mor·​di·​al prī-ˈmȯr-dē-əl How to pronounce primordial (audio)
: first created or developed : primeval sense 1
: existing in or persisting from the beginning (as of a solar system or universe)
a primordial gas cloud
: earliest formed in the growth of an individual or organ : primitive
primordial cells
: fundamental, primary
primordial human joysSir Winston Churchill
primordially adverb

Did you know?

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 Lightning was in the primordial Earth’s atmosphere. Chris Klimek, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 Nov. 2023 The first major effort to study the primordial Milky Way’s formation began in the 1960s, when Olin Eggen, Donald Lynden-Bell and Alan Sandage, who was Edwin Hubble’s former graduate student, argued that the galaxy collapsed from a spinning gas cloud. WIRED, 12 Nov. 2023 In addition, the collision would have taken place early in the Solar System's history, which could explain why the isotope ratios look primordial. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 1 Nov. 2023 Cerberus: The 3 Headed Dog Born from the monstrous, multi-headed Typhon and the serpent-woman Echidna, Cerberus was among the primordial monsters predating humanity. Katie Liu, Discover Magazine, 31 Oct. 2023 Lo, Posh and Becks emerged, into the primordial celebrity whorl of the ’90s. Matt Ortile, Condé Nast Traveler, 31 Oct. 2023 This made young people keenly aware of their bloodlines and descent and promoted an increasingly primordial concept of nationality. Robert Hornsby, Foreign Affairs, 24 Oct. 2023 Obsidian is a primordial ooze, its natural history connected to the heliographs and the projection. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 Treehouses stir some primordial instinct; the protohuman Australopithecus erected night nests in trees. Tom Vanderbilt Josh Robenstone, New York Times, 20 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'primordial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near primordial

Cite this Entry

“Primordial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pri·​mor·​di·​al prī-ˈmȯrd-ē-əl How to pronounce primordial (audio)
: first created or developed : primeval
primordially adverb

Medical Definition


pri·​mor·​di·​al prī-ˈmȯrd-ē-əl How to pronounce primordial (audio)
: earliest formed in the growth of an individual or organ : primitive
the primordial skeleton

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