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  1. preceding and leading up to the main part, matter, or business; introductory; preparatory: preliminary examinations.
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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.
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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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for preliminary

prior, preparatory, exploratory, opening, primary, trial, fundamental, basic, test, pilot, first, readying, foundation, introduction, preparation, start, initiation, groundwork, preface, preamble

Examples from the Web for preliminary

Contemporary Examples of preliminary

Historical Examples of preliminary

British Dictionary definitions for preliminary


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


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper