- 1680s (v.) "to assume a formal, precise demeanor," perhaps from French prim "thin, small, delicate," from Old French prim "fine, delicate," from Latin primus "finest," literally "first" (see prime (adj.)). Later, "deck out, dress to effect" (1721). Attested as a noun from 1700. The adjective, the sole surviving sense, is from 1709. A cant word at first. Related: Primly; primness.
- Italian fem. of primo "first" (see primo); as in prima ballerina (1799).
- prima donna (n.)
- 1782, "principal female singer in an opera," from Italian prima donna "first lady," from Latin prima, fem. of primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + domina "lady" (see dame). Meaning "temperamental person" first recorded 1834.
- prima facie
- Latin, literally "at first sight," ablative of prima facies "first appearance," from prima, fem. singular of primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + facies "form, face" (see face (n.)).
- primacy (n.)
- late 14c., from Old French primacie (14c., in Modern French spelled primatie) and directly from Medieval Latin primatia "office of a church primate" (late 12c.), from Late Latin primas (genitive primatis) "principal, chief, of the first rank" (see primate).
- primal (adj.)
- c. 1600, "belonging to the earliest age," from Medieval Latin primalis "primary," from Latin primus "first" (see prime (adj.)). Psychological sense, in reference to Freud's theory of behaviors springing from the earliest stage of emotional development, is attested from 1918. Primal scream is from a best-selling book of 1971.
- primary (adj.)
- early 15c., "of the first order," from Latin primarius "of the first rank, chief, principal, excellent," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)). Meaning "first in order" is from 1802. Primary color is first recorded 1610s (at first the seven of the spectrum, later the three from which others can be made); primary school is 1802, from French école primaire.
The Paris journals ... are full of a plan, brought forward by Fourcroy, for the establishment of primary schools, which is not interesting to an English reader. [London "Times," April 27, 1802]
- primary (n.)
- 1861, American English, short for primary election (1792, with reference to France; in a U.S. context from 1835); earlier primary caucus (1821).
- primate (n.)
- "high bishop," c. 1200, from Old French primat and directly from Medieval Latin primatem (nominative primas) "church primate," noun use of Late Latin adjective primas "of the first rank, chief, principal," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)).
Meaning "animal of the biological order including monkeys and humans" is attested from 1876, from Modern Latin Primates (Linnæus), from plural of Latin primas; so called from supposedly being the "highest" order of mammals (originally also including bats).
- primatology (n.)
- "study of Primates," 1941, from primate (n.) + -ology.
- primavera (n.)
- "spring, spring time," Italian, from Latin prima vera, plural of primus ver literally "first spring;" see prime (adj.) + vernal. Related: Primaveral.
- prime (adj.)
- late 14c., "first in order," from Latin primus "first, the first, first part," figuratively "chief, principal; excellent, distinguished, noble" (source also of Italian and Spanish primo), from pre-Italic *prismos, superlative of PIE *preis- "before," from root *per- (1) "beyond, forward, through" (see per).
Meaning "first in importance" is from 1610s in English; that of "first-rate" is from 1620s. Arithmetical sense (as in prime number) is from 1560s; prime meridian is from 1878. Prime time originally (c. 1500) meant "spring time;" broadcasting sense of "peak tuning-in period" is attested from 1961.
- prime (n.)
- "earliest canonical hour" (6 a.m.), Old English prim, from Medieval Latin prima "the first service," from Latin prima hora "the first hour" (of the Roman day). Meaning "most vigorous stage" first recorded 1530s; specifically "springtime of human life" (often meaning ages roughly 21 to 28) is from 1590s. In classical Latin, noun uses of the adjective meant "first part, beginning; leading place."
- prime (v.)
- "to fill, charge, load" (a weapon), 1510s, probably from prime (adj.). Meaning "to cover with a first coat of paint or dye" is from c. 1600. To prime a pump (c. 1840) meant to pour water down the tube, which saturated the sucking mechanism and made it draw up water more readily. Related: Primed; priming.
- prime minister
- 1640s, see prime (adj.) and minister (n.). Applied to the First Minister of State of Great Britain since 1694.
- primer (n.2)
- "explosive cap," 1819, agent noun from prime (v.).
- primer (n.1)
- late 14c., "prayer-book," also "school book" (senses not distinguished in Middle Ages, as reading was taught from prayer books), from Medieval Latin primarius, from Latin primus "first" (see prime (adj.)). The word also might be all or in part from prime (n.) on the same notion as a "Book of Hours." Meaning "small introductory book on any topic" is from 1807.
- primer (n.3)
- "first layer of dye or paint," 1680s, from prime (v.).
- primeval (adj.)
- also primaeval, 1650s, with -al (1) + Latin primaevus "early in life, youthful," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + aevum "an age" (see eon).
- 1879, from earlier use in German, from Modern Latin, from Latin primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + gravidus "laden, full, swollen, pregnant with child" (see gravid).
- priming (n.)
- "first coat of paint," c. 1600, verbal noun from prime (v.). Meaning "gunpowder in the pan of a firearm" is from 1590s.
- primipara (n.)
- 1842, Modern Latin, from Latin primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + parus (see -parous).
- primitive (adj.)
- late 14c., "of an original cause; of a thing from which something is derived; not secondary" (a sense now associated with primary), from Old French primitif "very first, original" (14c.) and directly from Latin primitivus "first or earliest of its kind," from primitus "at first," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)).
Meaning "of or belonging to the first age" is from early 15c. Meaning "having the style of an early or ancient time" is from 1680s. In Christian sense of "adhering to the qualities of the early Church" it is recorded from 1680s. Of untrained artists from 1942. Related: Primitively.
- primitive (n.)
- c. 1400, "original ancestor," from Latin primitivus (see primitive (adj.)). Meaning "aboriginal person in a land visited by Europeans" is from 1779, hence the sense "uncivilized person."
- primitivism (n.)
- 1861, from primitive + -ism. Related: Primitivist.
- 1740, in music terms, from Italian primo "first, chief," from Latin primus (see prime (adj.)). As slang for "excellent, first-class," perhaps an elaboration of prime. Of drugs, by 1990s, street slang.
- primogenitor (n.)
- "an ancestor," late 15c., from Medieval Latin primogenitor, from Latin primo (adv.) "first in order of time; at first," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + genitor "father," from genitus, past participle of gignere "to beget" (see genus). Related: Primogenital; primogenitary. The fem. form is primogenitrix (1875). The rights of a second son are secundogeniture.
- primogeniture (n.)
- "right of succession of the first-born," c. 1600, from French primogeniture and directly from Medieval Latin primogenitura, from Late Latin primogenitus "first-born," from Latin primo (adv.) "first in order of time," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + genitus, past participle of gignere "to beget" (see genus). Earlier it meant simply "fact of being first-born" (1590s).
- primordial (adj.)
- late 14c., from Late Latin primordialis "first of all, original," from Latin primordium "a beginning, the beginning, origin, commencement," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + stem of ordiri "to begin" (see order (n.)). Related: Primordially.
- primp (v.)
- 1801, probably an extension of prim (q.v.) in its verbal "dress up" sense; compare Scottish primpit (c. 1739) "delicate, nice." Related: Primped; primping.
- primrose (n.)
- late 14c., prymrose, from Old French primerose, primerole (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin prima rosa, literally "first rose," so called because it blooms early in spring (see prime (adj.)). As the name of a pale yellow color, by 1844.
Parallel name primula (c. 1100) is from Old French primerole, from Medieval Latin primula "primrose," shortened from primula veris "firstling of spring," thus properly fem. of Latin primulus, diminutive of primus; but primerole was used in Old French and Middle English of other flowers (cowslips, field daisies). The primrose path is from "Hamlet" I, iii.
- primum mobile (n.)
- "the first source of motion," mid-15c., from Medieval Latin (11c.), literally "the first movable thing;" see prime (adj.) + mobile. A translation of Arabic al-muharrik al-awwal "the first moving" (Avicenna).
- Latin for "first, the first" (see prime (adj.)).
- prince (n.)
- c. 1200, "ruler of a principality" (mid-12c. as a surname), from Old French prince "prince, noble lord" (12c.), from Latin princeps (genitive principis) "first man, chief leader; ruler, sovereign," noun use of adjective meaning "that takes first," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)) + root of capere "to take," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp" (see capable). German cognate fürst, from Old High German furist "first," is apparently an imitation of the Latin formation. Colloquial meaning "admirable or generous person" is from 1911, American English. Prince Regent was the title of George, Prince of Wales (later George VI) during the mental incapacity of George III (1811-1820).
- Prince Albert
- "piercing that consists of a ring which goes through the urethra and out behind the glans," mid-20c., supposedly so-called from the modern legend that Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1819-1861), prince consort of Queen Victoria, had one.
But the term seems to be not older than bodyart maven Doug Malloy and his circle, and the stories about the prince may be fantastical inventions. Perhaps there is some connection with Albert underworld/pawnshop slang for "gold watch chain" (1861), which probably is from the common portraits of the prince in which he is shown with a conspicuous gold watch chain. Many fashions in male dress made popular by him bore his name late 19c.
- Prince Charming
- 1837, from French Roi Charmant, name of the hero of Comtesse d'Aulnoy's "L'Oiseau Bleu" (1697). In English he was adopted into native fairy tales including "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella."
As for me, I have always agreed with the fairy books that the moment when Prince Charming arrives is the perfect climax. Everything that goes before in the life of a girl simply leads up to that moment, and everything that comes after dates from it; and while the girl of the twentieth century, sallying forth in search of adventure, may not hope to meet at the next turn a knight in shining armor, or a sighing troubadour, she does hope, if she is normal and has the normal dreams of a girl, to find her hero in some of the men who pass her way. [Temple Bailey, "Adventures in Girlhood," Philadelphia, 1919]
- princeling (n.)
- 1610s, from prince + -ling.
- princely (adj.)
- c. 1500, "of a prince," from prince + -ly (2). Meaning "sumptuous, magnificent" is from 1530s.
- princess (n.)
- late 14c., "woman of royal or noble birth; daughter or wife of a ruler or prince; female ruler," a native formation, or else from Old French princesse, fem. of prince (see prince). Compare Medieval Latin principissa, Italian principessa. As a colloquial form of address to a woman or girl, it is recorded from 1924 (as a term of address to a lover, early 15c.).
- principal (adj.)
- c. 1300, "main, principal, chief, dominant, most important;" also "great, large," from Old French principal "main, most important," of persons, "princely, high-ranking" (11c.), from Latin principalis "first in importance; original, primitive," from princeps "first man, chief, leader" (see prince).
- principal (n.)
- c. 1300, "ruler, governor;" also "main part;" from principal (adj.) or from or influenced by noun uses in Old French and Latin. From mid-14c. in the sense of "money on which interest is paid;" 1827 as "person in charge of a public school," though meaning "head of a college or hall" was in English from mid-15c.
- principality (n.)
- c. 1300, "position of a prince," from Old French principalite "principal matter; power, sovereignty" (12c., Modern French principauté), from Late Latin principalitatem (nominative principalitas), from principalis (see principal (adj.)). Meaning "region or state ruled by a prince" is attested from c. 1400.
- principally (adv.)
- mid-14c., "mostly, mainly; most importantly," from principal (adj.) + -ly (2). Late 14c. as "first of all." Meaning "for the most part" attested by 1832.
- principia (n.)
- "fundamental principles," plural of Latin principium "beginning, origin" (see principle (n.)). Especially as the short form of the title of Newton's book (published 1687).
- principle (n.)
- late 14c., "origin, source, beginning; rule of conduct; axiom, basic assumption; elemental aspect of a craft or discipline," from Anglo-French principle, Old French principe "origin, cause, principle," from Latin principium (plural principia) "a beginning, commencement, origin, first part," in plural "foundation, elements," from princeps (see prince). Used absolutely for (good or moral) principle from 1650s.
It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them. [Adlai Stevenson, speech, New York City, Aug. 27, 1952]
Scientific sense of "general law of nature" is recorded from 1802. The English -l- apparently is by analogy of participle, etc.
- principled (adj.)
- "honorable, moral," 1690s, from principle, which was used as a verb 17c.-18c. meaning "to ground in principles."
- print (v.)
- mid-14c., prenten "to make an impression" (as with a seal, stamp, etc.), from print (n.). Meaning "to set a mark on any surface" (including by writing) is attested from late 14c. Meaning "to run off on a press" is recorded from 1510s (Caxton, 1474, used enprynte in this sense). In reference to textiles, 1580s. The photography sense is recorded from 1851 (the noun in this sense is from 1853). Meaning "to write in imitation of typography" is from 1801.
He always prints, I know, 'cos he learnt writin' from the large bills in the bookin' offices. [Charles Dickens, "Pickwick Papers," 1837]
The meaning "to record (someone's) fingerprints" is from 1952. Related: Printed; printing.
- print (n.)
- c. 1300, "impression, mark" (as by a stamp or seal), from Old French preinte "impression," noun use of fem. past participle of preindre "to press, crush," altered from prembre, from Latin premere "to press" (see press (v.1)). The Old French word also was borrowed into Middle Dutch (prente, Dutch prent) and other Germanic languages.
Meaning "printed lettering" is from 1620s; print-hand "print-like handwriting" is from 1658. Sense of "picture or design from a block or plate" is first attested 1660s. Meaning "piece of printed cloth" is from 1756. In Middle English, stigmata were called precious prentes of crist; to perceiven the print of sight was "to feel (someone's) gaze." Out of print "no longer to be had from the publisher" is from 1670s (to be in print is recorded from late 15c.). Print journalism attested from 1962.
- print-out (n.)
- 1899, from print (v.) + out (adv.).
- printable (adj.)
- 1820 as "capable of being printed;" 1838 as "suitable to be published in print," from print (v.) + -able. Related: Printability.