from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective First or highest in rank or importance; principal. synonym: chief.
  • adjective Occurring first in time or sequence; earliest.
  • adjective Of or relating to primary schools.
  • adjective Not derived from anything else; basic or original.
  • adjective Immediate; direct.
  • adjective Geology Characteristic of or existing in a rock at the time of its formation.
  • adjective Of or relating to a primary color or colors.
  • adjective Having a word root or other linguistic element as a basis that cannot be further analyzed or broken down. Used of the derivation of a word or word element.
  • adjective Referring to present or future time. Used as a collective designation for various present and future verb tenses in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.
  • adjective Of or relating to primary stress.
  • adjective Electronics Of, relating to, or constituting an inducting current, circuit, or coil.
  • adjective Of, relating to, or designating the main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of a bird's wing.
  • adjective Of or relating to agriculture, forestry, the industries that extract natural materials from the earth, or the products so obtained.
  • adjective Relating to, or having a carbon atom that is attached to only one other carbon atom in a molecule.
  • adjective Relating to the replacement of only one of several atoms or groups in a compound, such as an amine in which one valence of the functional group is taken by a carbon atom.
  • adjective Botany Of, relating to, or derived from a primary meristem.
  • noun One that is first in time, order, or sequence.
  • noun One that is first or best in degree, quality, or importance.
  • noun One that is fundamental, basic, or elemental.
  • noun A meeting of the registered voters of a political party for the purpose of nominating candidates and for choosing delegates to their party convention.
  • noun A preliminary election in which the registered voters of a political party nominate candidates for office.
  • noun A primary color.
  • noun A primary flight feather.
  • noun Electronics An inducting current, circuit, or coil.
  • noun A celestial body, especially a star, relative to other bodies in orbit around it.
  • noun The brighter of two stars that make up a binary star.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • The body of the bark which lies between the epidermis and stele (central cylinder) in the stems of phanerogams, as also the corresponding zone in the root. In this sense sometimes simply cortex. Strasburger.
  • noun In electricity: In an alternating-current transformer, induction-motor, or other apparatus containing two circuits in inductive relation to one another, that circuit which receives power from the impressed electromotive force.
  • noun Sometimes, in an alternating-current transformer, the high potential coil, the low potential coil being the secondary.
  • noun In physiological optics, one of the primary colors or primary color-sensations.
  • noun A lesion of the initial stage of syphilis, a chancre: usually in the plural.
  • noun In Echinodermata: In echinoids, a plate which extends from the outer edge of an ambulacral area to the median suture of that area.
  • noun In echinoids, a spine of the largest order extending beyond the shorter secondaries.
  • noun In crinoids, according to Bather's terminology, any one of those plates which are first developed in the ontogeny and phylogeny, including the abactinal system of columnals, cirrals, infrabasals, basals, radials, brachials, pinnulars, and the actinal system of orals and ambulacrals.
  • noun In the Echinoidea, one of the large and completely developed tubercles on the surface of the test, which serve as articulating bases for the spines.
  • First or highest in rank, dignity, or importance; chief; principal.
  • First in order of being, of thought, or of time; original; primitive; first.
  • First or lowest in order of growth or development; elementary; preparatory.
  • First in use or intention; radical; original: as, the primary sense of a word.
  • In ornithology, of the first rank or order among the flight-feathers or remiges of the wing; situated upon the manus or pinion-bone, as a feather: correlated with secondary and tertiary or tertial. See II.
  • In geology, lowest in the sequence of geological formations: said of rocks.
  • noun That which stands first or highest in rank or importance, as opposed to secondary; that to which something else is subordinate.
  • noun In ornithology, one of the remiges, flight-feathers, or large quills which are situated upon the manus. pinion-bone, or distal segment of the wing.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Latin prīmārius, chief, from prīmus, first; see per in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the Latin prīmārius ("of the first”, “of the first rank”, “chief”, “principal”, “excellent"), from prīmus (“first”; whence the English adjective prime) + -ārius (whence the English suffix -ary); compare the French primaire, primer, and premier.


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  • I think your question is, if the primary ends tomorrow, what happens to Obama's * primary* money.

    Obama Camp: "Almost All" Of $40 Million Raised In March Is For Primary 2009

  • Since the energy in the two circuits will be practically the same, it follows _that the ratio between the current in the primary and that in the secondary will be equal to the ratio of the number of turns in the secondary to the number of turns in the primary_.

    Cyclopedia of Telephony & Telegraphy Vol. 1 A General Reference Work on Telephony, etc. etc. George Patterson 1910

  • The primary art is writing; —primary, if we regard the purpose abstracted from the different modes of realizing it, those steps of progression of which the instances are still visible in the lower degrees of civilization.

    On Poesy or Art 1909

  • In telephony, where the currents are not simple periodic currents, and where the variations in current strength take place at different rates, such a law as that just stated does not hold for all cases; but it may be stated in general that _the induced currents will be of higher voltage and smaller current strength than those of the primary in all coils where the secondary winding has a greater number of turns than the primary_, and _vice versâ_.

    Cyclopedia of Telephony & Telegraphy Vol. 1 A General Reference Work on Telephony, etc. etc. George Patterson 1910

  • I use the term "primary" because the change process actually requires you make several changes, which means making supplement goals.

    Patricia Ferrone: Once More, With Feeling! Patricia Ferrone 2011

  • I use the term "primary" because the change process actually requires you make several changes, which means making supplement goals.

    Patricia Ferrone: Once More, With Feeling! Patricia Ferrone 2011

  • So the phrase "primary caregiver" was added to the bill.

    News - 2011

  • I personally dislike using the term primary care for internists, because of the misuse of this word.

    Medlogs - Recent stories 2008

  • Politically, it probably makes sense, because his endorsement could put Hutchison over the top by securing the most uber-whacko votes in the primary, and since Democrats can't get their act together to find another Ann Richards, the primary is the only bit that will matter.

    Cheney endorsing Hutchinson in Texas governor's race 2009

  • In the cables, the U.S. said it was concerned that North Korea helped one of its lenders, Tanchon Commercial Bank, which it describes as the "primary financial agent behind the DPRK's weapons programs," to funnel money from Syria and Iran through Arab Bank.

    Cables Say Syria, Iran Illegally Moved Cash to North Korea Thomas Catan 2011

  • In 2014, the programming language Drupal replaced "master/slave" terminology with "primary/replica."

    Everyday words and phrases that have racist connotations Scottie Andrew,Harmeet Kaur 2020


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