Definition of secondary in English:



  • 1Coming after, less important than, or resulting from someone or something else that is primary:

    ‘luck plays a role, but it's ultimately secondary to local knowledge’
    • ‘The consequence is that secondary bacterial infection is quite common in diseased skin.’
    • ‘But it seems inexplicable that he used so few primary as well as secondary materials.’
    • ‘Most of the speakers felt that men had always treated women as secondary beings.’
    • ‘Providing humanitarian aid was secondary to supporting combat operations.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that secondary endosymbiosis involves a complicated series of events.’
    • ‘The villain is so lacking in character or interest that he seems secondary.’
    • ‘Ownership is important, but it's secondary to generating competition.’
    • ‘As the centuries passed, personal loyalty and service became almost secondary to the acquisition of property.’
    • ‘The plot seems almost secondary to the idea of being offbeat.’
    • ‘In some senses, the race is secondary to the social importance of this event.’
    • ‘But, important as it was, it was still secondary to Johnny's primary concern and that was people.’
    • ‘Variables such as artist, condition and rarity are secondary in importance.’
    • ‘The authors conclude that secondary prevention of stroke requires dietary, smoking, medical and, possibly, surgical intervention.’
    • ‘We were doing our best, but our role was becoming distinctly secondary.’
    • ‘The vascular lesions are probably secondary to chronic inflammation and fibrosis in the adjacent lung.’
    • ‘Similarly, texts have a secondary importance - the primary mode of transmission of knowledge is oral.’
    • ‘In the parts related to these subjects of the study, again, mostly secondary sources were used.’
    • ‘Frequently, sequestration is discovered when a patient develops symptoms that are usually secondary to infection or associated cardiac disease.’
    • ‘Each group or person has individual goals - but in a partnership, they have to be secondary to the primary joint goal.’
    • ‘To maintain growth Ryanair will need to continue seeking out new routes to new secondary airports.’
    subordinate, lesser, lower, lower-level, minor, peripheral, incidental, tangential, marginal, ancillary, subsidiary, subservient, non-essential, inessential, of little account, unimportant, less important
    indirect, non-primary, derived, derivative, resulting, resultant, concomitant, accompanying, consequential, contingent, second-hand
    alternative, spare, extra, additional, another, backup, supporting, relief, fallback, substitute, auxiliary
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Relating to education for children from the age of eleven to sixteen or eighteen:
      ‘a secondary school’
      • ‘The new secondary school will open in September.’
      • ‘Mr Curtis said he hoped to take a primary school teacher and a secondary school science head teacher with him on his trip, which could be in May.’
      • ‘Louis studied at the Lyceé Janson de Sailly in Paris completing his secondary school education in 1909.’
      • ‘Many students drop out of secondary education or university.’
      • ‘All but two students had received secondary school education in the United Kingdom.’
      • ‘About 90 percent of students who finish elementary school continue their education at the secondary level.’
      • ‘Such a system is needed to make post secondary education more accessible.’
      • ‘The pointillist painting method can be adapted to all levels of elementary and secondary art education.’
      • ‘All four colleges provided training for secondary school teachers on integrated academic curricula.’
      • ‘Primary education lasts until the age of eleven, followed by secondary education.’
      • ‘In our work as secondary English educators, we know we should routinely consider the literacy practices that best meet the needs of our students.’
      • ‘Alexandra College in Milltown, Dublin, offers kindergarten, junior and secondary level education for girls.’
      • ‘At least for secondary school teachers, you could crowd all the education stuff that you need on lesson planning and discipline into one class.’
      • ‘I did my secondary education at Chibi High School, a boarding school.’
      • ‘Recommended course series for early childhood educators, elementary educators, and secondary educators have been designed.’
      • ‘Very few teachers, especially in secondary schools, were funded to develop new curricula for themselves using computers.’
      • ‘I teach them for eight years before they go to boarding school to complete their secondary education.’
      • ‘The Schools Minister added that a new secondary school will be built in Swindon by 2011.’
      • ‘After I felt that my mission had drawn to a close, I was assigned to teach physical education to Taiwanese secondary school students.’
      • ‘No, I spent primary school and my secondary education in a State school.’
      • ‘As the Secretary of State for Education embarks on secondary curriculum revision, can we hope he will seize a tide?’
    2. 1.2 Having a reversible chemical reaction and therefore able to store energy:
      ‘the lead-acid accumulator used in cars consists of secondary cells’
      • ‘ATP is the power molecule used all over organisms and their cells to power the secondary reactions that keep us alive.’
    3. 1.3 Relating to or denoting the output side of a device using electromagnetic induction, especially in a transformer:
      ‘the primary and secondary coils of the transformer’
      • ‘Apply the ac voltage to the primary winding and expect output voltage at the secondary side.’
      • ‘The alternating flux in the core in turn induces an alternating current in each of the secondary coils.’
      • ‘The burst in current causes a change in voltage in the secondary coil, which in turn causes a change in voltage in the feedback coil.’
      • ‘It's broadly the same way a power transformer works, with a primary coil generating a current in a secondary coil, the difference between the number of loops in each coil governing the change to the voltage.’
      • ‘The reverse polarity creates a peak current about twice as high as the six amps of coil current on the primary side, and a higher peak-to-peak current on the secondary side.’
  • 2Geology

    former term for Mesozoic
    • ‘These big limestone tables are formed in the secondary era.’
    • ‘We learn that there was a time when Cephalopoda were the highest types of animal life; and that during the secondary period they were anatomically raised far above any forms of the reptile class now living in the world.’
  • 3Chemistry
    (of an organic compound) having its functional group located on a carbon atom which is bonded to two other carbon atoms.

    • ‘Just aft of the close-coupled catalyst sits a particulate filter and secondary oxidation catalyst.’
    • ‘In this example, the first molecule is a primary alcohol and the second is a secondary alcohol.’
    • ‘Manufacture of ketones can also be carried out by the dehydrogenation of a secondary alcohol at high temperature.’
    • ‘Similar to ions, secreted secondary compounds are positioned to be leached to the soil, in some cases for the purpose of contributing to allelopathy.’
    1. 3.1 (chiefly of amines) derived from ammonia by replacement of two hydrogen atoms by organic groups.
      • ‘Reaction with nitrous acid is used to distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary amines.’
      • ‘The acidic pH of the stomach would favour the nitrosation of secondary and tertiary amines in the quid.’
      • ‘Subsequent synthesis reactions using different primary, secondary, and aromatic amines had similar reaction and precipitation times.’
      • ‘Tricyclic antidepressants may be categorized as secondary or tertiary amines.’


  • 1Short for:

    • ‘And he promised greater control over buildings and staff as well as the power for popular secondaries to expand to meet demand.’
    • ‘Government policy favours the creation of more faith schools, and in Bradford the Church of England established two new secondaries during re-organisation.’
    • ‘Pupils absent each day could fill 816 primary schools and 252 secondaries.’
    • ‘However, since the Dearing Report, only 34 secondaries have been opened or expanded.’
    • ‘The Government has been accused of distorting school league tables in a bid to persuade secondaries to impose its new diploma on pupils.’
    • ‘In Greater Glasgow, 69 % of 12-year-olds at secondaries have tooth decay.’
    • ‘Some 3 per cent of primaries and 5 per cent of secondaries were found to have inadequate teaching last year.’
    • ‘And never doubt the real accountability to parents, at the school gate in primaries or on the phone in secondaries.’
    • ‘Britain already has 1,454 specialist schools, representing 46 per cent of all secondaries.’
    • ‘A spokesman said 70 per cent of primary schools and 81 per cent of secondaries already have wireless technology almost 14,500 in England alone.’
    • ‘The report, issued yesterday, was based on visits by inspectors to 32 primaries and 16 secondaries in eight local education authorities.’
    • ‘Parents are invited to choose their favoured schools in order of preference but many secondaries attract far more applications than they have places available.’
    • ‘Just two per cent were judged to be " inadequate ", compared with 13 per cent of mainstream secondaries.’
    • ‘The expansion plans will be welcomed by parents who have found the existing church secondaries heavily oversubscribed.’
    • ‘Schools across the country can use lotteries to stop middle-class children dominating the best secondaries, a Government minister said last night.’
    • ‘The association also said there was evidence of councils having difficulty in obtaining supply teachers for secondaries.’
    • ‘More than half of the primary schools and nearly two thirds of the secondaries were worse off.’
    • ‘The bombshell comes weeks after a report showed half of secondaries fail to give kids a decent education.’
    • ‘Glasgow city council is now testing Flippers cards in 12 primary schools and two secondaries.’
    • ‘Headteacher at St Joseph's secondary school said that there there are 10 secondaries in town taking about 10,000 children.’
    1. 1.1British A secondary school.
      • ‘St Matthew's was one of eighty four schools to close in Manchester - 66 primaries, 10 secondaries and eight special schools.’
      • ‘Glasgow city council is now testing Flippers cards in 12 primary schools and two secondaries.’
      • ‘Edinburgh has created 50 training places in primary schools and 48 in secondaries, but each figure is about 25 short of the number required.’
      • ‘This includes the town's only Catholic secondary, McAuley High School, in Cantley, which fears its ‘unique culture’ may be at risk.’
      • ‘Armed with the slogan dreamed up by a pupil at an Egremont secondary, Cumbria County Council's education welfare team has launched a campaign to keep children in the classroom.’
      • ‘About a third of Kent secondaries are grammar schools, another third secondary moderns and the rest comprehensives.’
      • ‘As school gates closed for half-term, two more Sutton secondaries celebrated achieving specialist school status this week.’
      • ‘Their youngest daughter, of primary age, attends a state school but may go to a private secondary, a trend which could leave private primaries particularly vulnerable.’
      • ‘Ofsted inspected 3,041 primary schools, 122 nurseries and 551 secondaries.’
      • ‘John Patterson, head of Bingley Grammar School, said the secondary would face a budget deficit of £300,000 if classes remained at their present sizes.’
      • ‘Academies are new state schools which replace existing secondaries considered to be failing.’
      • ‘The study looked at three Fuel Zones in the city's schools, two secondaries and one primary school.’
      • ‘He had a ten-year-old daughter Sarah and was a former pupil of Braeburn primary school and Pindar secondary in Eastfield, near Scarborough.’
      • ‘This may include more links between secondaries and colleges.’
      • ‘The one secondary, 12 primaries and two nursery schools are among 700 nationwide receiving a share in a £6 million Government handout.’
      • ‘Bingley Grammar School is the only secondary in Bradford - and one of just a handful in the region - to have been singled out for special praise.’
      • ‘The absence of history in the primary school and its reduced presence in the junior secondary deprives students of the necessary background for historiographical judgment.’
      • ‘We will transfer the success of what has happened in primary schools to secondaries,’ he said.’
      • ‘In the first two days alone, in the Chorlton area, they stopped 73 youngsters, 17 from primary schools and 56 from secondaries.’
      • ‘Pupils absent each day could fill 816 primary schools and 252 secondaries.’
    2. 1.2Ornithology A secondary feather.
      • ‘The white secondaries of each wing were clearly visible, separated by the black back of the bird, and they reached all the way to the trailing edge of the wings.’
      • ‘Characteristics shared with other Apodiformes include: tiny feet, long wings with long primaries, short humeri and short secondaries.’
      • ‘In all cases, we obtained wax extracts from flight feathers, predominantly primaries and secondaries.’
      • ‘One or more additional layers of shorter feathers may overlie the proximal parts of the flight primaries and secondaries.’
      • ‘It is mostly black, with white at the trailing edge of the secondaries, on the sides of the rump, and on the throat, narrowing towards the belly.’
    3. 1.3 A secondary coil or winding in an electrical transformer.
      • ‘Each secondary will feature 672 voice-coil actuators, now in the final stages of fabrication in Italy.’
  • 2the SecondaryGeology
    dated The Secondary or Mesozoic era.


Late Middle English: from Latin secundarius of the second quality or class, from secundus (see second).