• IPA: /ˈpɹɪmɪtɪv/

primitive (plural primitives)

  1. (linguistics) An original or primary word; a word not derived from another, as opposed to derivative.
  2. A member of a primitive society.
  3. A simple-minded person.
  4. (computing, programming) A data type that is built into the programming language, as opposed to more complex structures.
  5. (computing, programming) Any of the simplest elements (instructions, statements, etc.) available in a programming language.
  6. A basic geometric shape from which more complex shapes can be constructed.
  7. (mathematics) A function whose derivative is a given function; an antiderivative.
  • word: primitive word, radical, radical word
Translations Translations
  • Portuguese: primitivo
  • Russian: первобы́тный челове́к
Translations Translations
  • Portuguese: primitiva
  • Russian: примити́в


  1. Of or pertaining to the beginning or origin, or to early times; original; primordial; primeval; first.
    primitive innocence;   the primitive church
  2. Of or pertaining to or harking back to a former time; old-fashioned; characterized by simplicity.
    Synonyms: backwards
    a primitive style of dress
  3. Crude, obsolete.
    primitive ideas
  4. (grammar) Original; primary; radical; not derived.
    Synonyms: radical
    Antonyms: derivative, derived
    a primitive verb
    • 1831, Noah Webster, Rudiments of English Grammar; Being an Abridgment of the Improved Grammar of the English Language, New-Haven, p.6:
      Division of words. Words are primitive or radical, and derivative or compound.
      Of primitive words. Primitive or radical words are such as cannot be divided, or separated into parts which are significant; as man, hope, bless.
  5. (biology) Occurring in or characteristic of an early stage of development or evolution.
  6. (maths) Not derived from another of the same type
    Synonyms: imprimitive
  7. (linguistics, dated) most recent common ancestor (often hypothetical) of
    Synonyms: proto-
    • 1933, Leonard Bloomfield, Language, Henry Holt, p. 13
      We infer that other groups of related languages, such as the Germanic (or the Slavic or the Celtic), which show a similar resemblance, have arisen in the same way; it is only an accident of history that for these groups we have no written records of the earlier state of the language, as it was spoken before the differentiation set in. To these unrecorded languages we give names like Primitive Germanic (Primitive Slavic, Primitive Celtic, and so on).

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