• synonyms


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



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

Examples from the Web for primly

Historical Examples

  • "I am sure you will find that pleasant," said Mary Isabel primly.

    Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1907 to 1908

    Lucy Maud Montgomery

  • "I don't think you ought to talk that way before ladies," he said, primly.

  • "My husband wouldn't be happy without me," she said, primly.

  • "Your master would like some tea," she said, primly, as Bella appeared.

  • "It has nothing to do with the secret proceedings of your 'frat'," said Dora, primly.

    Ramsey Milholland

    Booth Tarkington

British Dictionary definitions for primly


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 primly


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