Quick Summary

The Latin root word prim which means “first” is an important contributor to the English language. This Latin root is the word origin of a good number of English words, such as prime, primitive, and primate. Perhaps the easiest way to remember that prim means “first” is through the adjective primary, for a primary concern is “first” above all others.

Prim and Proper: First Things First!

The Latin root prim which means “first” is an important root word in the English language. Here follows a great primer to introduce you to the primary meaning of prim!

“First” off, the primary or “first” thing we must do is introduce English derivatives that come from prim meaning “first.” The “first” school that students attend is primary school. There, a primer is often used to teach the “first” key aspects of reading; just like a reading primer, a paint primer must be applied “first” to a wall to prepare it for the main paint. And, of course the primaries during election season, such as the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa primary, occur “first” before the main election in order to choose each party’s primary candidate.

When it comes to math, we’ve all heard about prime numbers. Prime numbers are considered to be “first” in importance, for every number is either a prime number or a product of prime numbers,which gives them their fundamental or “first” status in mathematics. A prime or “first” example of prime numbers is the “first” ones that come to mind: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17. Speaking of prime, a well pump must be primed before it can draw water; therefore, priming the pump is the “first” thing done to draw water from the well!

The history of life has several words with prim meaning “first” in them. For instance, the history of primitive life deals with the “first” forms of life present on the planet. The primal or “first” era of the Earth saw no forms of life present at all. Of life forms today, the primates, which include homo sapiens, apes, and monkeys, are considered to be the “first” in importance of all the mammals.

You’ve probably heard of prime time television shows. Shows televised during prime time, or time that is “first” in importance because most people watch TV then, are often the networks’ best offerings to the public. Speaking of other “firsts,” primogeniture stated that the king’s “first” son got to be the next king. A prima donna, or “first” lady, is the principal or “first” female singer in an opera. Perhaps a prima donna, if not too overbearingly egotistical, would be given a bouquet of primroses for a great performance, or those roses that bloom “first” in spring. Hopefully those primroses would be handed out during the premier of that opera, or its very “first” showing.

Well, I am out of primo or “first”-rate examples of English words that have prim in them. Now go out and follow the primrose path!

  1. primary (adj.): of or pertaining to “first” things
  2. primer: paint applied “first,” or “first” reader
  3. primary (n.): “first” election in which main party candidates are chosen before the main election
  4. prime number: number that is mathematically “first” in fundamental importance
  5. prime example: example that is “first” in importance
  6. prime a pump: “first” thing that must be done to a pump to get it to draw water
  7. primitive: of “first” things, especially in terms of living creatures
  8. primal: of the very “first” times
  9. primate: mammal so named for being “first” in importance
  10. prime time: time that is “first” to watch for most television audiences
  11. primogeniture: rule that states the “first”-born son of a king gets to be the next king
  12. prima donna: “first” lady of an opera
  13. primrose: rose that blooms “first” in spring
  14. premier: a “first” showing of a theatrical production
  15. primo: “first”-rate


  • primordial

    The adjective primordial is used to describe things that existed close to the formation of Earth or close to the origin or development of something.

  • primeval

    Something primeval is ancient or belonging to the original development of something.

  • primary

    The primary thing on a list of things to do is the most important thing, so it is at the top of the list or first.

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