Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin primarius basic, primary, from Latin, principal, from primus
Date: 15th century
1. first in order of time or development ; primitive <the primary stage of civilization> <the primary lesion of a disease> 2. a. of first rank, importance, or value ; principal <the primary purpose> b. basic, fundamental <security is a primary need> c. of, relating to, or constituting the principal quills of a bird's wing d. of or relating to agriculture, forestry, and the extractive industries or their products e. expressive of present or future time <primary tense> f. of, relating to, or constituting the strongest of the three or four degrees of stress recognized by most linguists <the first syllable of basketball carries primary stress> 3. a. direct, firsthand <primary sources of information> b. not derivable from other colors, odors, or tastes c. preparatory to something else in a continuing process <primary instruction> d. of or relating to a primary school <primary education> e. of or relating to a primary election <a primary candidate> f. belonging to the first group or order in successive divisions, combinations, or ramifications <primary nerves> g. directly derived from ores <primary metals> h. of, relating to, or being the amino acid sequence in proteins <primary protein structure> 4. resulting from the substitution of one of two or more atoms or groups in a molecule <a primary amine>; especially being or characterized by a carbon atom having a bond to only one other carbon atom 5. of, relating to, involving, or derived from primary meristem <primary tissue> <primary growth> 6. of, relating to, or involved in the production of organic substances by green plants <primary productivity> 7. providing primary care <a primary physician> II. noun (plural -ries) Date: 1656 1. something that stands first in rank, importance, or value ; fundamental — usually used in plural 2. the celestial body around which one or more other celestial bodies revolve; especially the more massive usually brighter component of a binary star system 3. one of the usually 9 or 10 strong quills on the distal joint of a bird's wing — see wing illustration 4. a. primary color b. the sensation of seeing primary colors 5. a. caucus b. an election in which qualified voters nominate or express a preference for a particular candidate or group of candidates for political office, choose party officials, or select delegates for a party convention 6. the coil that is connected to the source of electricity in an induction coil or transformer — called also primary coil
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.