adjective prim·i·tive \ˈpri-mə-tiv\

: of, belonging to, or seeming to come from an early time in the very ancient past

: not having a written language, advanced technology, etc.

: very simple and basic : made or done in a way that is not modern and that does not show much skill

Full Definition of PRIMITIVE

a :  not derived :  original, primary
b :  assumed as a basis; especially :  axiomatic <primitive concepts>
a :  of or relating to the earliest age or period :  primeval <the primitive church>
b :  closely approximating an early ancestral type :  little evolved <primitive mammals>
c :  belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development :  crude, rudimentary <primitive technology>
d :  of, relating to, or constituting the assumed parent speech of related languages <primitive Germanic>
a :  elemental, natural <our primitive feelings of vengeance — John Mackwood>
b :  of, relating to, or produced by a people or culture that is nonindustrial and often nonliterate and tribal <primitive art>
c :  naive
d (1) :  self-taught, untutored <primitive craftsmen>
(2) :  produced by a self-taught artist <a primitive painting>
prim·i·tive·ly adverb
prim·i·tive·ness noun
prim·i·tiv·i·ty \ˌpri-mə-ˈti-və-tē\ noun


Middle English primitif, from Latin primitivus first formed, from primitiae first fruits, from primus first — more at prime
First Known Use: 14th century

Other Biology Terms

autochthonous, fecund, homunculus, phylogeny, substrate



: an artist who makes art in a simple style that is childlike; also : the art made by such an artist

: someone who belongs to a primitive society

Full Definition of PRIMITIVE

a :  something primitive; specifically :  a primitive idea, term, or proposition
b :  a root word
a (1) :  an artist of an early period of a culture or artistic movement (2) :  a later imitator or follower of such an artist
b (1) :  a self-taught artist
(2) :  an artist whose work is marked by directness and naïveté
c :  a work of art produced by a primitive artist
d :  a typically rough or simple usually handmade and antique home accessory or furnishing
a :  a member of a primitive people
b :  an unsophisticated person

First Known Use of PRIMITIVE

15th century

Other Anthropology Terms

ectomorph, ethnography, prehistory, yurt
PRIMITIVE Defined for Kids


adjective prim·i·tive \ˈpri-mə-tiv\

Definition of PRIMITIVE for Kids

:  of or belonging to very early times <primitive cultures>
:  of or belonging to an early stage of development <primitive tools>

Word Root of PRIMITIVE

The Latin word primus, meaning first, gives us the root prim. Words from the Latin primus have something to do with being first. Anything primary comes first in importance or order. Anything primeval belongs to a period of time that came first, before the present. Anything primitive also belongs to an earlier time.
Medical Dictionary


adjective prim·i·tive \ˈprim-ət-iv\

Medical Definition of PRIMITIVE

:  closely approximating an early ancestral type :  little evolved
:  belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development <primitive cells>
prim·i·tive·ly adverb
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