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noun, plural pre·lim·i·nar·ies.
  1. something preliminary, as an introductory or preparatory step, measure, contest, etc.: He passed the preliminary and went on to the finals.
  2. a boxing match or other athletic contest that takes place before the main event on the program: A preliminary was fought at 8:00.
  3. a preliminary examination, as of a candidate for an academic degree.
  4. preliminaries, Printing. front matter.

Origin of preliminary

1650–60; < French prélimin(aire) and New Latin praelīmin(āris) (see pre-, liminal) + -ary
Related formspre·lim·i·nar·i·ly, adverb

Synonyms for preliminary

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1. prefatory. Preliminary, introductory both refer to that which comes before the principal subject of consideration. That which is preliminary is in the nature of preparation or of clearing away details which would encumber the main subject or problem; it often deals with arrangements and the like, which have to do only incidentally with the principal subject: preliminary negotiations. That which is introductory leads with natural, logical, or close connection directly into the main subject of consideration: introductory steps.

Antonyms for preliminary

1. concluding.

front matter

noun Printing.
  1. all material in a book that precedes the text proper, as the title page, copyright page, table of contents, dedication, and preface.
Compare back matter.

Origin of front matter

An Americanism dating back to 1905–10
Also called preliminaries. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for preliminaries

Historical Examples of preliminaries

  • She opened it and without any preliminaries handed it and the cheque to the banker.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • The preliminaries of the negotiation were adjusted at this interview.

  • You can appear before the public and attend to all preliminaries.

  • These preliminaries over, Dimples sets herself to pay for her seat.

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael

  • After the preliminaries of investigation were gone through, the witnesses were called.

British Dictionary definitions for preliminaries


pl n
  1. the full word for prelims

front matter

  1. another name for prelims (def. 1)


  1. (usually prenominal) occurring before or in preparation; introductory
noun plural -naries
  1. a preliminary event or occurrence
  2. an eliminating contest held before the main competition
Derived Formspreliminarily, adverb

Word Origin for preliminary

C17: from New Latin praelīmināris, from Latin prae before + līmen threshold
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

Word Origin and History for preliminaries



1660s, from French préliminaire and directly from Medieval Latin praeliminaris, from Latin prae- "before" (see pre-) + limen (genitive liminis) "threshold" (see limit (n.)). A word that arose in reference to negotiations to end the Thirty Years' War. Earliest attested form in English is preliminaries (n.), 1650s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper