Meaning of PRIMITIVE in English


I. ˈpriməd.iv, -ətiv adjective

Etymology: Middle English primitif, from Latin primitivus, from primitus firstly, originally (from primus first + -itus, adverb suffix) + -ivus -ive — more at prime


a. : not derived from or reducible to something else : original , primary

seeks excellence at its primitive source — nature — John Dewey

an acre of one primitive color alone — J.A.Michener

primitive verbs

b. : axiomatic , postulational

primitive formula

primitive concept

c. : of, relating to, or constituting the smallest possible unit cell of a space lattice ; especially : of, relating to, or constituting such a cell having its axes normal to planes and parallel to axes of symmetry


a. : of or relating to the earliest age or period of something

had generally shown a desire to have the church become its primitive self again — Stringfellow Barr

from the moment when primitive human creatures shaped the first tools — Jacquetta & Christopher Hawkes

primitive Norse


(1) : primordial — opposed to definitive

(2) : closely approximating an early ancestral type : little evolved : archaic , persistent

the opossums are primitive mammals

c. : belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development : crude , rudimentary

a health resort with primitive facilities has been built here — American Guide Series: Texas

a primitive but effective police inquiry — T.S.Eliot

d. : of, relating to, or constituting the assumed parent speech of related languages

primitive Germanic


a. : of or relating to the beginning of things : primeval

it runs through resort areas, rolling and rocky farmland, through primitive forests — American Guide Series: Maine

b. : earliest formed : fundamental — used especially of the Archean in geology


a. : of or relating to a state of nature : elemental

the noble savage endowed with primitive virtue — Oscar Handlin

our primitive feelings of vengeance — John Mackwood

b. : of or relating to any unindustrialized people or culture not possessing a written language and commonly having a relatively simple technology and material culture : nonliterate , preliterate

c. : lacking in sophistication or subtlety of thought, feeling, or expression : naïve , simple

neither staunchly primitive nor confidently au courant, she rarely knew where she was at — Jean Stafford


(1) : self-taught , untutored

a primitive painter who has never been inside a museum or art school

(2) : produced by a self-taught artist

a primitive portrait

5. : of, relating to, or holding the doctrines of any of several small Protestant religious groups

II. noun

( -s )


a. : something that is primitive

involves no cult of the instinctive and primitive — F.R.Leavis

specifically : a primitive idea, term, or proposition

limit the number of undefined concepts to a few simple primitives — K.F.Leidecker

b. : a root word : radical — compare derivative

2. often capitalized : a member of any of several small Protestant religious groups ; especially : primitive methodist



(1) : an artist active in the early period of a culture or artistic movement

(2) : a later imitator or follower of such an artist


(1) : a self-taught artist

(2) : an artist whose work is marked by directness and naïveté

the simplicity of vision and of purpose that make the true primitive — Cyril Ray

c. : a work of art produced by a primitive artist

4. : a relation from which a differential equation is derived


a. : a member of a nonliterate or preliterate people

the anthropology of the future will not be concerned above all else with primitives — A.L.Kroeber

b. : a simple and unsophisticated person

this grand primitive , shaggy and good as a dog — J.H.Allen

c. : a person whose attitudes, behavior, or mentality are those of an earlier stage of society or human development

a revolt of the primitives, goaded by demagogues — New Republic

a handsome, tough tavern brawler with a law degree, a kind of lowbrow intellectual primitive — Time

6. : a postage stamp of early issue ; also : a philatelic cover of early date

III. noun

: a typically rough or simple usually handmade and antique home accessory or furnishing

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.