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Origin of prime

First recorded before 1000; 1910–15 for def. 5; (adjective) Middle English (from Old French prim), from Latin prīmusfirst (superlative corresponding to priorprior1); (noun) in part derivative of the adjective; in part continuing Middle English prim(e) “first canonical hour,” Old English prim, from Latin prīma (hōra) “first (hour)”; (verb) apparently derivative of the adjective

synonym study for prime

7. Prime, primeval, primitive have reference to that which is first. Prime means first in numerical order or order of development: prime meridian; prime cause. Primeval means belonging to the first or earliest ages: the primeval forest. Primitive suggests the characteristics of the origins or early stages of a development, and hence implies the simplicity of original things: primitive tribes, conditions, ornaments, customs, tools.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a basic definition of prime?

The word prime is used in mathematics to refer to a prime number, a number that can only be divided by itself or the number 1 to equal a whole number. The word prime can be used to describe something as the most important or most relevant among other similar things, like a prime example or a prime suspect. The word prime has many other senses as an adjective, noun, and verb.

A number is considered to be a prime number if it can only be divided by itself and 1 to get a whole number, meaning there is no fractional or decimal remainder.

  • Real-life example: The number 7 is a prime number. It can be divided by itself to equal 1 or by 1 to equal 7. Dividing 7 by any other number will not result in a whole number. For example, 7 divided by 2 is 3.5 (3 ½). Numbers that aren’t prime are called composite numbers. The number 6, for example, is a composite number because it can be divided by 3 to equal 2, which is a whole number. The numbers 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17 are examples of prime numbers.
  • Used in a sentence: The number 51 is not a prime number because it can be divided by 3 to get 17.

The word prime is also used as an adjective to describe something as the most important among other things. The adjectives primary and chief are close synonyms.

  • Real-life example: If a high school student’s grades are the prime factor that a college considers when reviewing their application, this means it is the most important thing being considered. Your mom might say that you lying to her is the prime reason she is grounding you. This means that the lie was the most important reason and the fact that you didn’t clean your room or walk the dog are less important reasons.
  • Used in a sentence: Studying before taking tests is the prime factor that will determine if you pass or fail a class.

The word prime is also used as an adjective to describe something as the most relevant or significant.

  • Real-life example: Your teacher might say that Bill Gates is a prime example of how learning about computers can lead to success in life, meaning he is the best example.
  • Used in a sentence: The fact that my sister gave me $100 with no questions asked is a prime example of her generosity.

Where does prime come from?

The first records of the word prime come from before 1000. It ultimately comes from the Latin prīmus, meaning “first.” The noun use of prime came first from the Latin prīma hora, meaning “the first hour.”

Things that are described as prime are often first in importance and first in significance among other similar things.

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What are some other forms related to prime?

  • primeness (noun)
  • primely (adverb)
  • nonprime (adjective)
  • self-primed (adjective)

What are some synonyms for prime?

What are some words that share a root or word element with prime

What are some words that often get used in discussing prime?


How is prime used in real life?

Prime is an extremely common word with many meanings. It is often used to mean “first” or “top.”



Try using prime!

Is the number 24 a prime number?

How to use prime in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for prime

/ (praɪm) /


Derived forms of prime

primely, adverbprimeness, noun

Word Origin for prime

(adj) C14: from Latin prīmus first; (n) C13: from Latin prīma (hora) the first (hour); (vb) C16: of uncertain origin, probably connected with n
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with prime


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.