Definition of tertiary in US English:



  • 1Third in order or level.

    ‘the tertiary stage of the disease’
    ‘most of the enterprises were of tertiary importance’
    • ‘Expansion segments seem to be subject to some selective pressure that maintains their particular structure, at both the secondary and the tertiary levels.’
    • ‘Finally, it shows the undesirability, in some cases, of placing in primary legislation issues that should more appropriately be found in secondary or tertiary legislation.’
    • ‘The vocal harmonies have been completely phased out, and to some extent, the vocals themselves are of tertiary importance outside of a simple rhythmic device.’
    • ‘The primary goal is the only one needed to complete each mission, although obtaining secondary and tertiary goals will improve your score and rank.’
    • ‘When primary methods of removal fail, move on to secondary or tertiary techniques for bringing marginal oil and gas out of the ground.’
    • ‘They are operating at the level of secondary or tertiary prevention, or early and late intervention of individual chronic drug users.’
    • ‘Self-defense training and kata can prepare us to respond to this secondary level attack, preventing the escalation to a tertiary level of confrontation.’
    • ‘The minister also announced that funding from the national department to tertiary level services has doubled from R62m to R124m this financial year.’
    • ‘The Mediterranean theater has long been a theater of tertiary importance to the legion of historians writing about World War II.’
    • ‘More importantly, the establishment of a large and successful tertiary market within Australia has drawn private players keen to participate.’
    • ‘Inflation benefits the government that controls it, not only at the expense of the population at large, but also at the expense of all secondary and tertiary governments.’
    • ‘If operated in conjunction with a coppiced willow tertiary treatment system, this would remove the need to dump sewage sludge into Tramore Bay.’
    • ‘The generation born in the 1970s are more independent than any generation in the past, with a higher level of tertiary education and often working in part time jobs from teenage years onwards.’
    • ‘At that stage, the bonsai will have filled out (with tertiary branches) and there'll be moss on the trunk and roots.’
    • ‘Yet the poor still resort to the public services for more of their secondary and tertiary level care than do the better off.’
    • ‘Croydon Council's road gritters were out in force ensuring all of Croydon's main roads and the majority of secondary and tertiary routes were gritted.’
    • ‘The management of childhood cataract is far more complex than age related cataract and needs well trained teams at the tertiary level and long term follow up.’
    • ‘There is a strong echo of elegance, but the tertiary flavours of nut and oxidised or Madeira-like notes are now coming to the foreground.’
    • ‘The effects of the syphilis spirochaete are unique: when the disease reaches its tertiary stage, patients often experience remarkable psychological changes.’
    • ‘The extension of the current plant will include the installation of primary, secondary and tertiary crushing, two stages of primary screening and a ball milling process.’
    1. 1.1British Relating to or denoting education at a level beyond that provided by schools, especially that provided by a college or university.
      • ‘Spiraling tuition fees make tertiary education - the great doorway to opportunity - increasingly inaccessible to those on the bottom of the heap.’
      • ‘One goal should be to make a university, or indeed a tertiary education sector, one in which nobody faces any financial barriers to enrolment.’
      • ‘She regularly conducts workshops on fundraising for students for their tertiary education.’
      • ‘She is involved with primary and tertiary education and the preservation of Gaelic culture and language.’
      • ‘In response to the need to improve access to tertiary education, universities are increasingly implementing online delivery solutions.’
      • ‘For tertiary and post-graduate education however, reputation can still play a major role in how these qualifications are viewed by potential employers.’
      • ‘For a variety of reasons its scholars were expected to attain honours and then move into tertiary education.’
      • ‘There is cheaper and more affordable tertiary education for students.’
      • ‘We've had the relentless drive to increase the numbers in tertiary education, irrespective of the ability of students or universities to cope.’
      • ‘He won scholarships first to Eton and then Cambridge, interspersing his tertiary education with journeys to China, Greece and Turkey.’
      • ‘Physicians and some nurses are educated at universities, and tertiary education is expensive.’
      • ‘The UK has the ‘Open University’, the South Pacific uses satellite broadcasting for tertiary education’
      • ‘Universities are respected in the community and they continue to be the preferred destination for an overwhelming majority of students going on to tertiary education.’
      • ‘He also stated that the focus in tertiary education should shift from universities towards more technical qualifications.’
      • ‘In 2001 only 26,9 percent of the residents of the nine cities had matriculated and only 11,9 percent had any form of tertiary education.’
      • ‘On completion of her tertiary education, she found employment in administrative posts and in public relations.’
      • ‘Pressure built up to invest more in tertiary education so that they could occupy themselves in more advanced courses which might lead to better jobs.’
      • ‘One recurring theme in the debate over the adequacy of journalism education is whether tertiary graduates have the skills necessary to find work with the limited number of employers.’
      • ‘The scholarship also involves tertiary study through the University of Queensland.’
      • ‘The fund aims to provide financial assistance to deserving but cash-strapped students, willing to pursue tertiary education in the fields of science and technology.’
      higher-level, higher, third-level
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Relating to or denoting the medical treatment provided at a specialist institution.
      • ‘The patient was later transferred to a tertiary care hospital where a pacer-defibrillator was installed.’
      • ‘He had been discharged from the tertiary unit for palliative care.’
      • ‘At the tertiary care center, there are not only pediatric cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, but also a sophisticated intensive care unit for infants.’
      • ‘We measured the rate of neonatal autopsy at a tertiary referral centre over the past decade to investigate the role of various factors in determining consent for autopsy.’
      • ‘The study site was a tertiary care teaching hospital that performs approximately 250 adult cardiac surgical procedures annually.’
      • ‘A 2-year-old boy was brought to a tertiary care hospital by his mother and grandmother for evaluation of a bleeding disorder.’
      • ‘A dermatologist from an academic tertiary care medical center agreed to serve as an expert consultant.’
      • ‘The key factor in managing pregnancies complicated by twin-twin transfusion syndrome is early referral to a tertiary fetal medicine unit experienced in the care of monochorionic pregnancies.’
      • ‘This project was started in 2001 in a tertiary referral obstetric unit, which manages around 6000 births a year.’
      • ‘That hospital had a specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Service and provided tertiary consultative services to many hospitals in the region.’
      • ‘The participants were children six months to five years of age who were seen in an urban tertiary care emergency department or a large general pediatric clinic.’
      • ‘Our results reflect practice in a single institution, but practices in this institution are likely to be similar to those in other tertiary care settings.’
      • ‘Our study of an unselected population took place at a tertiary referral centre with autopsy performed by specialist paediatric pathologists.’
      • ‘The relevance of research undertaken in secondary or tertiary care to general practice is questionable, and more research based in primary care is needed.’
      • ‘He continued to have moderate angina and was referred to a tertiary care medical center for evaluation.’
      • ‘The patient and her family had left for the gastroenterology consultation, at a tertiary care centre 500 km away.’
      • ‘Staff shortages and the poor utilization of support staff inhibit the provision of clinical pharmacy services in all but the main tertiary care hospitals.’
      • ‘Secondary and tertiary medical care is not uniformly available even in the suburban and urban areas.’
      • ‘During 1990-2000, 194 new patients were referred to a specialist tertiary centre for the treatment and management of venous leg ulcers.’
      • ‘Subjects who required the care of a specialist were referred to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital - a tertiary referral hospital that served the study area.’
  • 2Geology
    Relating to or denoting the first period of the Cenozoic era, between the Cretaceous and Quaternary periods, and comprising the Paleogene and Neogene subperiods.

    • ‘In contrast to parts of the External Hellenides, the Menderes nappes do not show Tertiary high-pressure metamorphism.’
    • ‘The youngest rocks in the district are Tertiary basalt flows and tuffs.’
    • ‘The fossils from the formation represent organisms that thrived during the Pliocene epoch, at the end of the Tertiary period.’
    • ‘The annihilation of the dinosaurs marks the boundary linking Cretaceous time and Tertiary time.’
    • ‘A cover of undeformed Middle-Upper Miocene to Pliocene rocks is present in all the Tertiary basins.’
  • 3Chemistry
    (of an organic compound) having its functional group located on a carbon atom which is itself bonded to three other carbon atoms.

    • ‘The reaction of Grignard reagents with carbonyl compounds is used to prepare primary, secondary, and tertiary alcohols.’
    • ‘Esters can be used to manufacture tertiary alcohols by using a Grignard reagent.’
    • ‘If the hydroxyl group is bound to a carbon atom that is itself bound to three other carbon atoms then the resultant alcohol is a tertiary alcohol.’
    1. 3.1 (chiefly of amines) derived from ammonia by replacement of three hydrogen atoms by organic groups.
      • ‘This photoreaction is highly dependent on the amine structure and is efficient only in the presence of tertiary aliphatic amines.’
      • ‘One or more of the hydrogens of the ammonia is replaced with an organic acid group to produce a primary, secondary, or tertiary amide.’
      • ‘This enzyme system catalyses the oxidative deamination of primary aromatic amines, long-chain diamines and tertiary cyclic amines.’


  • 1the TertiaryGeology
    The Tertiary period or the system of rocks deposited during it.

    The Tertiary lasted from about 65 million to 1.6 million years ago. The mammals diversified following the demise of the dinosaurs and became dominant, as did the flowering plants

  • 2A lay associate of certain Christian monastic organizations.

    ‘a Franciscan tertiary’
    • ‘If we take St Francis of Assisi as the likely subject, however, a direct relationship emerges with St Elizabeth of Hungary and her great-niece St Elizabeth of Portugal, both of whom were Franciscan tertiaries.’
    • ‘The beguines and tertiaries, and to some extent the newer Cistercian nuns, were drawn from rising social strata - new groups that may have been anxious about their wealth and status.’
    • ‘Though contemporary treatises recommended that widows and Franciscan tertiaries be discreetly covered, there is evidence that in their demeanor and in their dress younger widows were perceived as presenting a seductive appeal to men.’
    • ‘She became a Dominican tertiary at the age of 16, and devoted herself to good works and to prayer.’
    • ‘She was buried in Mantua in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary, with the cord and the scapular, as the Modenese chronicler Lancellotti reports.’


Mid 16th century (in tertiary (sense 2 of the noun)): from Latin tertiarius ‘of the third part or rank’, from tertius ‘third’.