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 villain is so lacking in character or interest that he seems secondary.’
    • ‘To maintain growth Ryanair will need to continue seeking out new routes to new secondary airports.’
    • ‘Variables such as artist, condition and rarity are secondary in importance.’
    • ‘In some senses, the race is secondary to the social importance of this event.’
    • ‘Frequently, sequestration is discovered when a patient develops symptoms that are usually secondary to infection or associated cardiac disease.’
    • ‘But, important as it was, it was still secondary to Johnny's primary concern and that was people.’
    • ‘In the parts related to these subjects of the study, again, mostly secondary sources were used.’
    • ‘Ownership is important, but it's secondary to generating competition.’
    • ‘The vascular lesions are probably secondary to chronic inflammation and fibrosis in the adjacent lung.’
    • ‘Providing humanitarian aid was secondary to supporting combat operations.’
    • ‘As the centuries passed, personal loyalty and service became almost secondary to the acquisition of property.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that secondary endosymbiosis involves a complicated series of events.’
    • ‘Each group or person has individual goals - but in a partnership, they have to be secondary to the primary joint goal.’
    • ‘The consequence is that secondary bacterial infection is quite common in diseased skin.’
    • ‘We were doing our best, but our role was becoming distinctly secondary.’
    • ‘Similarly, texts have a secondary importance - the primary mode of transmission of knowledge is oral.’
    • ‘The authors conclude that secondary prevention of stroke requires dietary, smoking, medical and, possibly, surgical intervention.’
    • ‘Most of the speakers felt that men had always treated women as secondary beings.’
    • ‘The plot seems almost secondary to the idea of being offbeat.’
    • ‘But it seems inexplicable that he used so few primary as well as secondary materials.’
    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[attributive] Relating to education for children from the age of eleven to sixteen or eighteen.
      ‘a secondary school’
      • ‘The pointillist painting method can be adapted to all levels of elementary and secondary art education.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I did my secondary education at Chibi High School, a boarding school.’
      • ‘Alexandra College in Milltown, Dublin, offers kindergarten, junior and secondary level education for girls.’
      • ‘I teach them for eight years before they go to boarding school to complete their secondary education.’
      • ‘All but two students had received secondary school education in the United Kingdom.’
      • ‘At least for secondary school teachers, you could crowd all the education stuff that you need on lesson planning and discipline into one class.’
      • ‘Many students drop out of secondary education or university.’
      • ‘Recommended course series for early childhood educators, elementary educators, and secondary educators have been designed.’
      • ‘No, I spent primary school and my secondary education in a State school.’
      • ‘Very few teachers, especially in secondary schools, were funded to develop new curricula for themselves using computers.’
      • ‘Louis studied at the Lyceé Janson de Sailly in Paris completing his secondary school education in 1909.’
      • ‘The new secondary school will open in September.’
      • ‘As the Secretary of State for Education embarks on secondary curriculum revision, can we hope he will seize a tide?’
      • ‘The Schools Minister added that a new secondary school will be built in Swindon by 2011.’
      • ‘In our work as secondary English educators, we know we should routinely consider the literacy practices that best meet the needs of our students.’
      • ‘Primary education lasts until the age of eleven, followed by secondary education.’
      • ‘Such a system is needed to make post secondary education more accessible.’
      • ‘All four colleges provided training for secondary school teachers on integrated academic curricula.’
      • ‘About 90 percent of students who finish elementary school continue their education at the secondary level.’
      • ‘After I felt that my mission had drawn to a close, I was assigned to teach physical education to Taiwanese secondary school students.’
    2. 1.2 Having a reversible chemical reaction and therefore able to store energy.
      • ‘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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Apply the ac voltage to the primary winding and expect output voltage at the secondary side.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The alternating flux in the core in turn induces an alternating current in each of the secondary coils.’
  • 2Geology

    former term for Mesozoic
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These big limestone tables are formed in the secondary era.’
  • 3Chemistry
    (of an organic compound) having its functional group located on a carbon atom that is bonded to two other carbon atoms.

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


  • 1Short for.

    • ‘The expansion plans will be welcomed by parents who have found the existing church secondaries heavily oversubscribed.’
    • ‘Glasgow city council is now testing Flippers cards in 12 primary schools and two secondaries.’
    • ‘Just two per cent were judged to be " inadequate ", compared with 13 per cent of mainstream secondaries.’
    • ‘And he promised greater control over buildings and staff as well as the power for popular secondaries to expand to meet demand.’
    • ‘And never doubt the real accountability to parents, at the school gate in primaries or on the phone in 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.’
    • ‘Some 3 per cent of primaries and 5 per cent of secondaries were found to have inadequate teaching last year.’
    • ‘Headteacher at St Joseph's secondary school said that there there are 10 secondaries in town taking about 10,000 children.’
    • ‘The bombshell comes weeks after a report showed half of secondaries fail to give kids a decent education.’
    • ‘The report, issued yesterday, was based on visits by inspectors to 32 primaries and 16 secondaries in eight local education authorities.’
    • ‘In Greater Glasgow, 69 % of 12-year-olds at secondaries have tooth decay.’
    • ‘More than half of the primary schools and nearly two thirds of the secondaries were worse off.’
    • ‘Parents are invited to choose their favoured schools in order of preference but many secondaries attract far more applications than they have places available.’
    • ‘The association also said there was evidence of councils having difficulty in obtaining supply teachers for secondaries.’
    • ‘However, since the Dearing Report, only 34 secondaries have been opened or expanded.’
    • ‘Pupils absent each day could fill 816 primary schools and 252 secondaries.’
    • ‘Schools across the country can use lotteries to stop middle-class children dominating the best secondaries, a Government minister said last night.’
    • ‘Britain already has 1,454 specialist schools, representing 46 per cent of all secondaries.’
    • ‘The Government has been accused of distorting school league tables in a bid to persuade secondaries to impose its new diploma on pupils.’
    • ‘Government policy favours the creation of more faith schools, and in Bradford the Church of England established two new secondaries during re-organisation.’
    1. 1.1Ornithology A secondary feather.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One or more additional layers of shorter feathers may overlie the proximal parts of the flight primaries and secondaries.’
    2. 1.2 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.’
  • 2American Football
    The players in the defensive backfield, or the area these players cover.

    • ‘Busted assignments, especially by a young secondary, have led to huge plays.’
    • ‘Just as important, he is a stabilizing element in a young secondary.’
    • ‘They also don't have the passing game to burn Baltimore's suspect secondary.’
    • ‘He's an explosive playmaker who has the speed to get behind opposing secondaries for big plays.’
    • ‘Sure, that trio gave the Eagles perhaps the most formidable secondary in the league.’
  • 3the SecondaryGeology
    dated The Secondary or Mesozoic era.


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