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[el-uh-men-tuh-ree, -tree] /ˌɛl əˈmɛn tə ri, -tri/
pertaining to or dealing with elements, rudiments, or first principles:
an elementary grammar.
of or relating to an elementary school:
elementary teachers.
of the nature of an ultimate constituent; simple or uncompounded.
pertaining to the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire, or to the great forces of nature; elemental.
Chemistry. of or noting one or more elements.
Origin of elementary
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English elementare (< Middle French elementaire) < Latin elementārius. See element, -ary
Related forms
[el-uh-men-ter-uh-lee] /ˌɛl ə mɛnˈtɛr ə li/ (Show IPA),
elementariness, noun
nonelementary, adjective
postelementary, adjective
preelementary, adjective
quasi-elementary, adjective
superelementary, adjective
transelementary, adjective
unelementary, adjective
Can be confused
eleemosynary, elementary (see synonym study at the current entry)
elemental, elementary.
1. Elementary, primary, rudimentary refer to what is basic and fundamental. Elementary refers to the introductory, simple, easy facts or parts of a subject that must necessarily be learned first in order to understand succeeding ones: elementary arithmetic. Primary may mean much the same as elementary; however, it usually emphasizes the idea of what comes first even more than that of simplicity: primary steps. Rudimentary applies to what is undeveloped or imperfect: a rudimentary form of government. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for elementary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Germanic invasions of France are matters of elementary history.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • He had received an elementary education; could read, write, and cipher.

    The Downfall Emile Zola
  • Margaret flushed at advice so elementary, but he was really paving the way for a lie.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • Yet without some reconciliation of these elementary ideas thought was impossible.

    Sophist Plato
  • Familiarity, likewise, with the most elementary uses of mathematics should be insured.

    College Teaching Paul Klapper
British Dictionary definitions for elementary


/ˌɛlɪˈmɛntərɪ; -trɪ/
not difficult; simple; rudimentary
of or concerned with the first principles of a subject; introductory or fundamental
(maths) (of a function) having the form of an algebraic, exponential, trigonometric, or a logarithmic function, or any combination of these
(chem) another word for elemental (sense 5)
Derived Forms
elementarily, adverb
elementariness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for elementary

late 14c., "having the nature of one of the four elements," from Middle French elementaire and directly from Latin elementarius, from elementum (see element). Meaning "rudimentary" is from 1540s; meaning "simple" is from 1620s. Elementary school is 1841.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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