Primes and Princes

By Mark Nichol - 3 minute read

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This post lists and defines words deriving from the adjective primus, meaning “first” or “finest.”

premier: first, or earliest; as a noun, a synonym for “prime minister”
premier danseur/première danseuse: the first male and female dancer, respectively, in a ballet company
premiere: most commonly, a first performance or broadcast of a performing-arts production or the first day of an exhibition (and, rarely, the leading actress in a production); as a verb, pertains to appearing for the first time in a starring role, or the first performance of a performing-arts production
prim: neat and trim, or prudish or stiffly formal (and occasionally a verb pertaining to dressing modestly or making a demure expression); prim is also sometimes an abbreviation for primary or primitive
prima donna: the first female singer in an opera or a concert; by extension, based on the stereotypical arrogance of such performers, a person who is difficult to work with
prima facie: apparent or self-evident (or, in legal usage, legally sufficient to establish a case or a fact); on first appearance
primacy: the state of being first, or the office of a high-ranking priest called a primate
primal: elemental, natural, or original; less often, first in importance
primary: first in order of development or time, or importance or value, or basic, direct, or firsthand; also, relating to something initial or preparatory, or pertaining to a first division, or relating to a preliminary election, as well as derived from ores or not derivable from other phenomena (such as colors); as a noun, something first, dominant, or most proximate
primate: any of various species, including humans, apes, monkeys, and related animals; also, the highest-ranking priest in a given area
primatologist: one who studies primates
primavera: served with fresh vegetables (said of a dish, as in “pasta primavera”)
prime: as a noun, the first hour of the day, the best or most active period or stage, the earliest stage, the best or leading individual or part, the first part of the day, a symbol resembling an apostrophe used for various designations (including units of length, angular measure, or time), or a truncation of “prime number” or “prime rate”; as an adjective, best or first, or original (also various mathematical senses); as a verb, apply, load, prepare, stimulate, or supply
primer: a short introductory piece of writing, such as an informative article or a reading-instruction book; also, a device used to ignite explosives, a molecule necessary for formation of another molecule, or an initial coating, such as for painting a surface
primeval: ancient, basic, or first created, formed, or existing
primigravida: one that or who is pregnant for the first time
primipara: one that has borne a first offspring or only one offspring
primiparous: having a first or only one offspring
primitive: original, or earliest or least evolved or in an early stage of development, elemental or natural, or naive or self-taught
primo: the first or leading part in an ensemble; as an adverb, in the first place; as an adjective, slang synonym for excellent
primogenitor: ancestor or forefather
primogeniture: exclusive right of the eldest son to inherit all, or being the firstborn
primordial: see primeval
primp: dress up (perhaps an extension of prim)
primrose: any of various species of plants and their flowers
primus: in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the leading bishop; also, the first word of the Latin phrase primus inter pares, meaning “first among equals”
prince: a male member of a ruling family (especially a son of the ruler), a king or other male ruler, a nobleman, or, by extension, one of high rank or standing
princeling: a minor prince
princess: a female member of a ruling family (especially a daughter of the ruler), a queen or other female ruler, a noblewoman, or, by extension, one of high rank or standing
principal: as a noun, a leading person, such as the chief administrator of a school, or something that is most important, or the original amount of money owed; as an adjectival, most important
principality: the territory of a prince, or the authority, office, or state of a prince; in plural form, one of various hierarchical categories of angels
principle: an assumption, law, or principle considered fundamental, or an explanatory fact or law; a code or rule of conduct, the quality of devotion to principles, or a quality in general; an original source; or an ingredient with a characteristic quality

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3 Responses to “Primes and Princes”

  • Dale A. Wood

    primordial: see “primeval”

    Oh, well, when Longfellow wrote “This is the forest primeval,”
    he was NOT writing of the places where the dinosaurs lived.

    “The forest primeval” was where these lived: American Indians, bears, beavers, bald eagles, badgers, bison, wild boars, buzzards, wild turkeys…

  • Dale A. Wood

    The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg is more or less a princess. She is on the same level as the Prince of Monaco, etc.

    In German-speaking realms, the word for prince is “Prinz”. However, for really outstanding accomplishments, a man could be made into a Prinz, and not just born into the title. Thus a “Prinz” was something a little higher than a duke, a duchess, or an earl. Oddly, the wife of an earl, or a woman with the title in her own right, is/was a “countess”.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I read an interesting article about the titles of the rulers or high authorities of places that the British (etc.) called “The East”, including all of Asia and a lot of Africa. For example, it included:
    sultan, emir, emperor, caliph, khan, maharajah, rajah, princeling, and satrap. There were more.
    The article said that it got to the point to which Westerners started asking, “Who is the head honcho around here?”
    Then when it came to minor honchos, just “Call Me Bwana”, one of Bob Hope’s great movies.

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