Definition of primal in US English:



  • 1Relating to an early stage in evolutionary development; primeval.

    ‘primal hunting societies’
    • ‘It's telling that Margie Gillis likens her ‘inside-out’ approach to modern dance performance to a primal argument.’
    • ‘As he found a seat - and the beat - within the group, he felt his mood Improving rapidly, and watched the primal act of drumming draw the group together.’
    • ‘The sound she beat out was at once primal and primitive, yet nuanced, complex, flowing.’
    • ‘In experimenting with different ways of working with sound to bring out those very primitive and primal sounds, he insists there is a return to a collective unconscious.’
    • ‘Primitive, coming from the same route as primal, applies to societies which, like the earliest on earth, not only did not use metal, but did not farm.’
    • ‘The origin of these summer traditions is a primal herd instinct, the urge to join with others in a festive act.’
    • ‘Some horror films provide us with a link back to our primal and savage past, when homo sapiens were at the mercy of a confusing and barely understood world, chock full of sharp toothed predators on the look out for some bi-pedal protein.’
    • ‘In our primal human context, conflict scenarios required immediate escape from, or intense combat with, fierce predators or competing clans.’
    • ‘Therefore, the Titans and their progeny, the giants, represent a primal generation put down and suppressed by a more competitive, semi-urban, modern culture.’
    • ‘I remember - among many such memories - being led to a secret patch of chanterelles, a woodsy, nutty mushroom that preserves well, in a stand of primal spruce.’
    • ‘As I look out across the roll of land now, it is difficult for me to peel off the past two hundred years and see the land as it was, original and primal.’
    • ‘Somehow olive picking seems to hit parts of him that his job at the university of Crete could never reach - it satisfies other, more primal, hunter-gatherer instincts.’
    • ‘At the end, four performers circled around the stage in a primal manner.’
    • ‘Rousseau offered no programme for changing society wholesale to restore mankind in general to its primal innocence and goodness.’
    • ‘The play's chorus employs movement and primal rhythms, and performs a powerful ritual ceremony to bless Yerma's fertility, with Kevin MacDonnell as its tribal leader.’
    • ‘The question representing the wish to die is unclear, because the sense of death has its origin in a place where language is primal and the power of speech does not yet exist.’
    • ‘‘Maybe human melody has extended but it still retains its primal shape and significance’ Professor Pont said.’
    • ‘Andrea O'Reilly argues that Wild represents a primal, premodern, primitive state.’
    • ‘Take away that civilization through some force of primal nature, and you will find the foundations of society quickly evaporate and the animal take over.’
    • ‘The guitar lines are more intricately crafted and louder than before; the vocals, while retaining their primal, scream-song approach, are now more sophisticated.’
    original, initial, early, earliest, first, primitive, primeval, primary
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    1. 1.1Psychology Relating to or denoting the needs, fears, or behavior that are postulated (especially in Freudian theory) to form the origins of emotional life.
      ‘he preys on people's primal fears’
      See also primal scene
      • ‘Psychoanalytic thinking proposes to shine a high-beam headlight into the dark cave of our most primal urges.’
      • ‘It's fear, the most primal human emotion, that gives gold its value.’
      • ‘The film taps into one of the most basic primal fears of childhood: separation from one's parents.’
      • ‘There are several cathartic therapies that involve primal screaming, rebirthing, or reparenting.’
      • ‘Well you have to control your emotions in boxing a lot, they're very, very primal emotions, and I've played a lot of sports, and there's nothing like getting in the ring.’
  • 2Essential; fundamental.

    ‘rivers were the primal highways of life’
    • ‘The primal conflict of American history pitted the Patriots against the Tories - the third or so of the colonial population that remained loyal to King George III.’
    • ‘A primal urge surrounds a fragrant loaf of steaming bread - a familiarity Alan has witnessed time and again.’
    • ‘Even the primal urge for physical activity succumbs to superficiality and materialism in the end.’
    • ‘Imposing rules on what you can and cannot eat ingrains that kind of self control, requiring us to learn to control even our most basic, primal instincts.’
    • ‘Not philosophy, after all, not humanity, just the sheer joyous power of song, is the primal thing in poetry.’
    • ‘It's possible that any educational curriculum aimed at the strictly cognitive level will not make much of a dent in this fundamental and primal relationship.’
    • ‘In our dreams, we enter a primal world of emotion, often, fantastic situations and intense visual images.’
    • ‘Built using a surprising array of materials and techniques, each dress focuses on primal elements of human nature - the soul, memory, seduction, abnegation.’
    • ‘He survives through primal instincts: rage, fear, violence.’
    • ‘It takes viewers crashing through black holes, cosmic stardust and primal gases as its characters brave heat, flies, noxious toads and crazy locals to unravel the mysteries of the universe.’
    • ‘It's about the emotionally primal battle between good and evil.’
    • ‘It is the packaging of these primal urges into a culture that fascinates Conley.’
    • ‘Members of the movement want to live in balance with their primal urges and the needs of modern society.’
    • ‘He immerses himself in art that stimulates his primal, elemental self, and the work he produces is the product of his visits with imagery created by others who work from similar impulses.’
    • ‘This concept of relaxed collective hospitality confuses two primal elements of eating.’
    • ‘Fascination with fire could be described as a primal urge, an urge that we have become distanced from as our relationship with fire has become progressively more controlled.’
    • ‘Emotions were primal, therefore he lost control easily.’
    • ‘I suggest that thinking begins with frank analysis of our own very personal primal experiences of the country.’
    • ‘We milled briefly in groups and then dispersed, confused but elated, still burning with whatever primal element any great, powerful music ignites inside us.’
    • ‘The outside walk is the most primal, important activity for a dog.’
    basic, fundamental, essential, elemental, primary, vital, central, intrinsic, indispensable, inherent, cardinal
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Early 17th century: from medieval Latin primalis, from Latin primus ‘first’.