Definition of tertiary in English:



  • 1Third in order or level.

    ‘the tertiary stage of the disease’
    ‘most of the enterprises were of tertiary importance’
    • ‘When primary methods of removal fail, move on to secondary or tertiary techniques for bringing marginal oil and gas out of the ground.’
    • ‘Yet the poor still resort to the public services for more of their secondary and tertiary level care than do the better off.’
    • ‘The effects of the syphilis spirochaete are unique: when the disease reaches its tertiary stage, patients often experience remarkable psychological changes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Expansion segments seem to be subject to some selective pressure that maintains their particular structure, at both the secondary and the tertiary levels.’
    • ‘Self-defense training and kata can prepare us to respond to this secondary level attack, preventing the escalation to a tertiary level of confrontation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘More importantly, the establishment of a large and successful tertiary market within Australia has drawn private players keen to participate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If operated in conjunction with a coppiced willow tertiary treatment system, this would remove the need to dump sewage sludge into Tramore Bay.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They are operating at the level of secondary or tertiary prevention, or early and late intervention of individual chronic drug users.’
    • ‘The minister also announced that funding from the national department to tertiary level services has doubled from R62m to R124m this financial year.’
    • ‘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 primary goal is the only one needed to complete each mission, although obtaining secondary and tertiary goals will improve your score and rank.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Mediterranean theater has long been a theater of tertiary importance to the legion of historians writing about World War II.’
    • ‘At that stage, the bonsai will have filled out (with tertiary branches) and there'll be moss on the trunk and roots.’
    1. 1.1British Relating to or denoting education at a level beyond that provided by schools, especially that provided by a college or university.
      • ‘On completion of her tertiary education, she found employment in administrative posts and in public relations.’
      • ‘For a variety of reasons its scholars were expected to attain honours and then move into tertiary education.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘The scholarship also involves tertiary study through the University of Queensland.’
      • ‘We've had the relentless drive to increase the numbers in tertiary education, irrespective of the ability of students or universities to cope.’
      • ‘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 goal should be to make a university, or indeed a tertiary education sector, one in which nobody faces any financial barriers to enrolment.’
      • ‘For tertiary and post-graduate education however, reputation can still play a major role in how these qualifications are viewed by potential employers.’
      • ‘He won scholarships first to Eton and then Cambridge, interspersing his tertiary education with journeys to China, Greece and Turkey.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Spiraling tuition fees make tertiary education - the great doorway to opportunity - increasingly inaccessible to those on the bottom of the heap.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is cheaper and more affordable tertiary education for students.’
      • ‘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.
      • ‘A dermatologist from an academic tertiary care medical center agreed to serve as an expert consultant.’
      • ‘Secondary and tertiary medical care is not uniformly available even in the suburban and urban areas.’
      • ‘The relevance of research undertaken in secondary or tertiary care to general practice is questionable, and more research based in primary care is needed.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘During 1990-2000, 194 new patients were referred to a specialist tertiary centre for the treatment and management of venous leg ulcers.’
      • ‘That hospital had a specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Service and provided tertiary consultative services to many hospitals in the region.’
      • ‘A 2-year-old boy was brought to a tertiary care hospital by his mother and grandmother for evaluation of a bleeding disorder.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He had been discharged from the tertiary unit for palliative care.’
      • ‘This project was started in 2001 in a tertiary referral obstetric unit, which manages around 6000 births a year.’
      • ‘The patient and her family had left for the gastroenterology consultation, at a tertiary care centre 500 km away.’
      • ‘The study site was a tertiary care teaching hospital that performs approximately 250 adult cardiac surgical procedures annually.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At the tertiary care center, there are not only pediatric cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, but also a sophisticated intensive care unit for infants.’
      • ‘He continued to have moderate angina and was referred to a tertiary care medical center for evaluation.’
      • ‘Staff shortages and the poor utilization of support staff inhibit the provision of clinical pharmacy services in all but the main tertiary care hospitals.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The patient was later transferred to a tertiary care hospital where a pacer-defibrillator was installed.’
  • 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.

    • ‘The annihilation of the dinosaurs marks the boundary linking Cretaceous time and Tertiary time.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In contrast to parts of the External Hellenides, the Menderes nappes do not show Tertiary high-pressure metamorphism.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Esters can be used to manufacture tertiary alcohols by using a Grignard reagent.’
    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.

  • 2A lay associate of certain Christian monastic organizations.

    ‘a Franciscan tertiary’
    • ‘She became a Dominican tertiary at the age of 16, and devoted herself to good works and to prayer.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She was buried in Mantua in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary, with the cord and the scapular, as the Modenese chronicler Lancellotti reports.’
    • ‘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.’


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