Definition of primary in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈprʌɪm(ə)ri/


1Of chief importance; principal: the government’s primary aim is to see significant reductions in unemployment
More example sentences
  • On the facts of this case, it seems clear that it is the fourth of these principles that is of primary importance.
  • He has been the primary proponent, chief scientist, and principal investigator of numerous research missions.
  • Demand for properties with all day sun is higher and this is a very important consideration if your primary aim is investment.
main, chief, key, prime, central, principal, foremost, first, most important, predominant, paramount, overriding, major, ruling, dominant, master, supreme, cardinal, pre-eminent, ultimate
informal number-one
2Earliest in time or order: the primary stage of their political education
More example sentences
  • Most importantly, the final comprehensive map is dependent on the order in which the primary maps are incorporated.
  • The colors of the secondary rainbow are in reverse order from the primary rainbow.
  • During primary socialization we absorb basic knowledge about our society's values, norms, folkways, and mores.
original, earliest, initial, beginning, first;
essential, fundamental, basic
2.1 Biology & Medicine Belonging to or directly derived from the first stage of development or growth: a primary bone tumour
More example sentences
  • As primary bone tumors are rare in toddlers, search for a primary tumor metastatic to bones is needed.
  • The risk for developing metastatic lesions from primary cutaneous melanomas increases with tumor thickness.
  • Biopsy of the primary growth itself is diagnostic and may show caseating granulomatous inflammation.
2.2 (Primary) Geology former term for Palaeozoic.
Example sentences
  • First came the Primitive or Primary rocks, then the Secondary, than finally the Alluvial or Tertiary.
  • This family of reptiles is allied to the living monitor, and its appearance in a primary or paleozoic formation, observes Prof. Owen, is opposed to the doctrine of the progressive development of reptiles from fish, or from simpler to more complex forms; for, if they existed at the present day, these monitors would take rank at the head of the Lacertian order.
  • It was indeed supposed by some of the earlier observers, that the granite of Christiania, in Norway, was intercalated in mountain masses between the primary or paleozoic strata of that country, so as to overlie fossiliferous shale and limestone.
3Not derived from, caused by, or based on anything else: the research involved the use of primary source materials
More example sentences
  • Gerard DeGroot has produced a brisk, clear, engaging account based on a wide range of secondary sources and some primary materials.
  • The research is solidly based in published primary sources: books, pamphlets, and trial records.
  • First, this is a work of very careful scholarship, based on both primary and secondary sources.
4chiefly British Relating to or denoting education for children between the ages of about five and eleven: a primary teacher
More example sentences
  • There is a great concern over the quality and supply of kindergarten and primary teachers in Hong Kong.
  • After pupils there leave primary education, they are expected to travel, on average, four miles from home each morning.
  • In 2000, 83% of nursery and primary teachers were women and so, right from the start, boys have few male role models.
5Relating to or denoting the input side of a transformer or other inductive device.
Example sentences
  • These two pins are the primary winding of the transformer.
  • Alternating current flowing in the primary (input) coil creates a continually changing magnetic field in the iron core, this field also passes through the secondary (output) coil and the changing strength of the magnetic field induces an alternating voltage in the secondary coil.
  • A current transformer has a pair of input terminals and a primary side which is switchable to different measuring ranges.
6 Chemistry (Of an organic compound) having its functional group located on a carbon atom which is bonded to no more than one other carbon atom: a primary alcohol
More example sentences
  • The region between C - 60 to - 70 can be assigned to C of C-O in primary alcohols and polysaccharides.
  • We, therefore, assumed that toluene was the primary organic solvent that the subjects were exposed to.
  • Glycerin is a thick liquid with a sweet taste that is found in fats and oils and is the primary triglyceride found in coconut and olive oil.
6.1(Chiefly of amines) derived from ammonia by replacement of one hydrogen atom by an organic group.
Example sentences
  • These reactions occur via acylation or alkylation and are often rapid, forming stable primary amide or secondary amine bonds.
  • This nascent bleach can also react with primary or secondary amines to form longer lasting, antimicrobial chloramines.
  • Secondary and tertiary amides are prepared by reacting primary amides or nitriles with organic acids.

noun (plural primaries)

1 (also primary election) (In the US) a preliminary election to appoint delegates to a party conference or to select the candidates for a principal, especially presidential, election: these two republicans should win their primaries easily
More example sentences
  • During a political party's election primaries, its best talent is selected and nominated to run for public office.
  • Candidates are able rationally to plan a strategy for the primaries and the general election.
  • I mean, anybody can vote for anybody in the general election, the primaries are long over and in Florida, they're so late in the season they hardly matter anyway.
2A primary colour.
Example sentences
  • In dealing with pigment the primaries are red, blue, and yellow, not green.
  • From any two of the primaries we obtain a secondary - yellow, magenta, or cyan (turquoise); from all three we get white light.
  • The colors are primaries and secondaries, rich and tonal, with an occasional warm gray or black thrown in.
2.1 Ornithology A primary feather.
Example sentences
  • In fact, it reminded me of a pintail duck in the way its primaries, the ten outermost feathers of the wing, seemed to do all the flying.
  • Seen in flight, the white on the wings of the Greater Scaup extends into the primaries, where it is gray on the Lesser Scaup.
  • One or more additional layers of shorter feathers may overlie the proximal parts of the flight primaries and secondaries.
2.2 Astronomy The body orbited by a smaller satellite or companion.
Example sentences
  • Such a body rotates once about its axis in the same length of time that it orbits the primary.
  • Planets move around their primaries in accordance with Kepler's Law of Motion.
2.3A primary coil or winding in an electrical transformer.
Example sentences
  • Just like a coil, you can check the continuity of any primary or secondary transformer winding.
3 (the Primary) Geology , dated The Palaeozoic era.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'original, not derivative'): from Latin primarius, from primus 'first'. The noun uses date from the 18th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pri|mary

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