Definition of primacy in US English:



  • 1The fact of being primary, preeminent, or more important.

    ‘the primacy of air power in the modern war’
    • ‘That's about as strong a statement of the primacy of the individual over the state as you could imagine.’
    • ‘Behaviorism, emphasizing the primacy of environment over instincts, held special appeal for reformers.’
    • ‘The most critical issue in the current situation is the primacy of international law.’
    • ‘His core belief is in the primacy of the individual in society.’
    • ‘The so-called primacy of conscience offers no useful way forward in our current dilemmas.’
    • ‘New York also cemented its primacy as a financial hub.’
    • ‘When it comes to service, it is the poor and the needy who take primacy in her priorities.’
    • ‘Science accords primacy to the facts themselves, and requires that conclusions honor them.’
    • ‘Thus the principles of the Convention give primacy to the fundamental rights of children while appreciating the importance of strong families to the healthy development of the child.’
    • ‘First-rate higher education institutions place primacy of importance on research and this is increasingly the case here at Waterford.’
    • ‘The primacy of logic stems from the fact that we have to know what knowledge is so we will recognize that we have met its demands in a particular case.’
    • ‘Some religions give primacy of value to mystical union, some to works of charity, some to justice, and some to ritual observance.’
    • ‘During the freedom movement women's issues were very much to the fore, and Gandhi in particular gave primacy to social reform, especially relating to women, as an integral part of the struggle for freedom.’
    • ‘They assert that parental rights are so important they should be given primacy over other competing considerations, or, at the very least, should be balanced against these other considerations.’
    • ‘As they explained their positions, some phrases popped up here and there: personal responsibility, suspicion of big government, the primacy of the individual.’
    • ‘In fact, if there is any right which enjoys primacy among rights, it is arguably the principle of equality and non-discrimination.’
    • ‘Safety normally has no place as a cornerstone liberal principle or progressive impulse, since it implies a conservative approach to politics - order takes primacy over change.’
    • ‘The consensus for the ethical conduct of human research gives primacy to individual human rights.’
    • ‘There is always the talk of the importance and needed primacy of primary care in our health care system.’
    • ‘The ethical principle of autonomy asserts the primacy of patients' individual choices.’
    greater importance, priority, precedence, pre-eminence, preference, superiority, first place, pride of place, weighting, supremacy, ascendancy, sovereignty, dominance, dominion, leadership
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  • 2The office, period of office, or authority of a primate of certain churches.

    • ‘But do we really need another in-house hassle over papal primacy versus episcopal collegiality?’
    • ‘An excellent defense of the need for a reformed universal primacy of the Bishop of Rome in a reunited Church is also included.’
    • ‘Forster reflected the position on papal primacy taken by the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission for ecumenical dialogue.’
  • 3Psychology
    usually as modifier The fact of an item having been presented earlier to the subject (especially as increasing its likelihood of being remembered)

    ‘the primacy effect is thought to reflect recall from a long-term memory store’
    • ‘The notion that recognition memory performance is dominated by semantic or conceptual factors has its origin in what Kolers and Roediger referred to as the semantic primacy assumption.’
    • ‘We attributed this recall pattern to the combined influence of primacy effects and the higher recall of the categorized words in comparison with the unrelated words.’
    • ‘These findings of long-term priming effects are clearly in opposition to the semantic primacy assumption.’
    • ‘This pattern of recall is likely the result of the combination of easily recalled semantically related words and primacy effects.’


Late Middle English: from Old French primatie, from medieval Latin primatia, from Latin primas, primat- ‘of the first rank’ (see primate).