pri·​mate | \ ˈprī-ˌmāt or especially for sense 1 -mət How to pronounce primate (audio) \

Definition of primate

1 often capitalized : a bishop who has precedence in a province, a group of provinces, or a nation
2 archaic : one first in authority or rank : leader
3 : any of an order (Primates) of mammals that are characterized especially by advanced development of binocular vision resulting in stereoscopic depth perception, specialization of the hands and feet for grasping, and enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and that include humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (such as lemurs and tarsiers)

Other Words from primate

primateship \ ˈprī-​ˌmāt-​ˌship How to pronounce primate (audio) \ noun
primatial \ prī-​ˈmā-​shəl How to pronounce primate (audio) \ adjective

Examples of primate in a Sentence

the Primate of England and Wales
Recent Examples on the Web Video footage showed the dog unexpectedly enter the gorilla exhibit at the zoo's Safari Park, and onlookers can be heard trying to lure the dog away from the primate. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, 14 June 2022 The zoo said the primate, born to parents Hendricks and Hemsworth, is the second blue-eyed black lemur born at the facility. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 2 Apr. 2022 In this way, the whole collection accrues value, and individual ownership doesn’t just give you a clever drawing of a primate. Bob Bonniol, Rolling Stone, 23 May 2022 Monkeypox can transmit from animals to humans when an infected animal -- such as a rodent or a primate -- bites or scratches a person. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 17 May 2022 Fuel for this conviction can be traced back to the 1920s and the notorious carnage at Monkey Hill, a captive-primate colony at the London Zoo. Rebecca Giggs, The Atlantic, 6 May 2022 The indri is a lemur, a primate with opposable thumbs; a short tail; and round, tufted, teddy-bear-like ears. Sara Harrison, Wired, 21 Dec. 2021 The endangered primate was one of the oldest lemurs at the zoo and died on Thursday after battling acute kidney disease, zoo officials said. Lauren Hernández, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Mar. 2022 But the first primate-to-human heart transplant took place in 1964. Brandy Schillace, Wired, 27 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'primate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of primate

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for primate

Middle English primat, primate, borrowed from Anglo-French primat, primas, borrowed from Late Latin prīmāt-, prīmās "chief, superior, chief bishop," noun derivative of Latin prīmāt-, prīmās "of the highest rank, noble," from prīmus "first, foremost" + -āt-, -ās, adjective-forming suffix, originally from place names; (sense 3) after New Latin Primates (order name introduced by linnaeus), plural of Latin prīmās — more at prime entry 2

Learn More About primate

Time Traveler for primate

Time Traveler

The first known use of primate was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near primate

primary xylem


primatial council

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for primate

Last Updated

25 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Primate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for primate


pri·​mate | \ ˈprī-ˌmāt How to pronounce primate (audio) \

Kids Definition of primate

: any of a group of mammals that includes humans together with the apes and monkeys and a few related forms


pri·​mate | \ ˈprī-ˌmāt How to pronounce primate (audio) \

Medical Definition of primate

: any mammal of the order Primates

More from Merriam-Webster on primate

Nglish: Translation of primate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of primate for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about primate


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!