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adjective, prim·mer, prim·mest.
  1. formally precise or proper, as persons or behavior; stiffly neat.
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verb (used without object), primmed, prim·ming.
  1. to draw up the mouth in an affectedly nice or precise way.
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verb (used with object), primmed, prim·ming.
  1. to make prim, as in appearance.
  2. to draw (one's face, lips, etc.) into a prim expression.
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Origin of prim1

First recorded in 1675–85; origin uncertain
Related formsprim·ly, adverbprim·ness, nounun·primmed, adjective


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  1. privet.
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Origin of prim2

First recorded in 1565–75; shortening of earlier primprint privet < ?


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for prim

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But it was at the other that he gazed even as he returned Betty's prim little bow.

  • It was broad daylight, and the door leading into the prim little hall was ajar.

    Henry Dunbar

    M. E. Braddon

  • The one servant of the house waited at table, prim, sedate, formal.

    Cleo The Magnificent

    Louis Zangwill

  • That would account for the big yarns he tells Prim about Africa and such.

    Galusha the Magnificent

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • And the prim and practical matron grew more and more fond of her.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for prim


adjective primmer or primmest
  1. affectedly proper, precise, or formal
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verb prims, primming or primmed
  1. (tr) to make prim
  2. to purse (the mouth) primly or (of the mouth) to be so pursed
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Derived Formsprimly, adverbprimness, noun

Word Origin

C18: of unknown origin
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 prim

1680s (v.) "to assume a formal, precise demeanor," perhaps from French prim "thin, small, delicate," from Old French prim "fine, delicate," from Latin primus "finest," literally "first" (see prime (adj.)). Later, "deck out, dress to effect" (1721). Attested as a noun from 1700. The adjective, the sole surviving sense, is from 1709. A cant word at first. Related: Primly; primness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper