See more synonyms for Primates on

Origin of Primates

1765–75; < New Latin, plural of Latin prīmās one of the first, chief, principal. See primate


[prahy-meyt or especially for 1, prahy-mit]
  1. Ecclesiastical. an archbishop or bishop ranking first among the bishops of a province or country.
  2. any of various omnivorous mammals of the order Primates, comprising the three suborders Anthropoidea (humans, great apes, gibbons, Old World monkeys, and New World monkeys), Prosimii (lemurs, loris, and their allies), and Tarsioidea (tarsiers), especially distinguished by the use of hands, varied locomotion, and by complex flexible behavior involving a high level of social interaction and cultural adaptability.
  3. Archaic. a chief or leader.

Origin of primate

1175–1225; Middle English primat dignitary, religious leader < Late Latin prīmāt- (stem of prīmās), noun use of Latin prīmās of first rank, derivative of prīmus first (see prime); (def 2) taken as singular of New Latin Primates Primates, as if ending in -ate1
Related formspri·ma·tal, adjective, nounpri·ma·tial [prahy-mey-shuh l] /praɪˈmeɪ ʃəl/, pri·mat·i·cal [prahy-mat-i-kuh l] /praɪˈmæt ɪ kəl/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for primates

Contemporary Examples of primates

Historical Examples of primates

  • We check the human cases, and the primates in the experimental laboratories.


    Jesse Franklin Bone

  • One weakness of the primates is the character of their self-consciousness.

    This Simian World

    Clarence Day

  • Among none of the first three branches can we look for the ancestors of the Primates.

    The Last Link

    Ernst Haeckel

  • At this date Clare also had a chapel, which was used at the primates visitation in 1401.


    Mildred Anna Rosalie Tuker

  • Again, the meeting of primates is summoned for early in March.

    The Vintage

    Edward Frederic Benson

British Dictionary definitions for primates


  1. any placental mammal of the order Primates, typically having flexible hands and feet with opposable first digits, good eyesight, and, in the higher apes, a highly developed brain: includes lemurs, lorises, monkeys, apes, and man
  1. of, relating to, or belonging to the order Primates
Derived Formsprimatial (praɪˈmeɪʃəl), adjective

Word Origin for primate

C18: from New Latin primates, plural of prīmās principal, from prīmus first


  1. another name for archbishop
  2. Primate of all England the Archbishop of Canterbury
  3. Primate of England the Archbishop of York

Word Origin for primate

C13: from Old French, from Latin prīmās principal, from prīmus first
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 primates



"high bishop," c.1200, from Old French primat and directly from Medieval Latin primatem (nominative primas) "church primate," noun use of Late Latin adjective primas "of the first rank, chief, principal," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)).

Meaning "animal of the biological order including monkeys and humans" is attested from 1876, from Modern Latin Primates (Linnæus), from plural of Latin primas; so called from supposedly being the "highest" order of mammals (originally also including bats).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

primates in Medicine


  1. A mammal of the order Primates, which includes the anthropoids and prosimians, characterized by refined development of the hands and feet, a shortened snout, and a large brain.
Related formspri•matial (-māshəl) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

primates in Science


  1. Any of various mammals of the order Primates, having a highly developed brain, eyes facing forward, a shortened nose and muzzle, and opposable thumbs. Primates usually live in groups with complex social systems, and their high intelligence allows them to adapt their behavior successfully to different environments. Lemurs, monkeys, apes, and humans are primates.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

primates in Culture



The order of mammals that includes monkeys, apes, and human beings. Primates are distinguished from other animals in that they generally possess limbs capable of performing a variety of functions, hands and feet adapted for grasping (including opposable thumbs), flattened snouts, and other anatomical features. (See Linnean classification.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.