Etymology
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primary (adj.)

early 15c., primarie, "earliest, most basic, first in time or sequence;" 1560s, "first or highest in rank or importance," from Latin primarius "of the first rank, chief, principal, excellent," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)).

The meaning "first or lowest in order of growth or development; elementary, preparatory" is from c. 1800, first in education; primary school is attested by 1793 in translations from French, from école primaire.

The Paris journals ... are full of a plan, brought forward by Fourcroy, for the establishment of primary schools, which is not interesting to an English reader. [London Times, April 27, 1802]

Primary color is attested from 1610s (at first the seven of the spectrum, later the three pigments from which the others can be made). Related: Primarily.

Primary and prime mean first in time, and now especially first in order of importance: as, a primary class, definition, consideration, planet; prime mover, importance, idea .... Primitive means belonging to the beginning or origin, original, hence old-fashioned, having an old-fashioned simplicity: as, a primitive word, the primitive church, primitive purity, manners, unconventionality, dress. ... Primeval means of the flrst or earliest ages, and nothing else. [Century Dictionary] 
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primary (n.)

1760, "that which stands first or highest in rank or importance;" see primary (adj.). Meaning "meeting of voters of the same political party in an election district for nominating candidates for office or delegates to a convention" is by 1855, American English, short for primary meeting (1823), primary election (1792, with reference to France; in a U.S. context from 1835), or primary caucus (1817). The system is informal, not constitutional, and has evolved over time.

Theoretically every voter belonging to the party in a district has a right to attend the primary and vote, but in cities and large places only registered voters who have answered certain test questions relating to party adherence have that privilege. [Century Dictionary, 1895]
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secondary (adj.)

late 14c., secondarie, "belonging to the second class; not chief or principal; second in importance or authority; of a lesser quality or worth; subordinate to something else, depending upon the action of primary qualities," from Old French secondaire and directly from Latin secundarius "pertaining to the second class, inferior," from secundus (see second (adj.)).

Opposed to primary (adj.) or principal (adj.). Of colors, under the old theory, from 1831; in reference to schools or education, from 1809. Of characteristics peculiar to one sex but not necessary for reproduction, from 1780. Related: Secondarily; secondariness.

As a noun from mid-15c. as "thing or place of secondary importance or which is dependent on a primary;" 1590s as "a delegate or deputy." The U.S. football sense of "defensive backfield" is by 1955.

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primitive (adj.)

late 14c., primitif, "of an original cause; of a thing from which something is derived; not secondary" (a sense now associated with primary), from Old French primitif "very first, original" (14c.) and directly from Latin primitivus "first or earliest of its kind," from primitus "at first," from primus "first" (see prime (adj.)).

Meaning "of or belonging to the first age" is from early 15c., especially in a Christian sense of "adhering to the qualities of the early Church." Meaning "having the style of an early or ancient time," especially "characterized by the (supposed) simplicity of the old times," is from 1680s.

In anthropology, of cultures that, through isolation, have remained at a simple level, by 1895. Of untrained modern artists from 1942 (earlier in reference to pre-Renaissance artists; 1847; also of art by "primitive" cultures or prehistoric ages). Related: Primitively.

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*per- (1)

Proto-Indo-European root forming prepositions, etc., meaning "forward," and, by extension, "in front of, before, first, chief, toward, near, against," etc.

It forms all or part of: afford; approach; appropriate; approve; approximate; barbican; before; deprive; expropriate; far; first; for; for-; fore; fore-; forefather; foremost; former (adj.); forth; frame; frau; fret; Freya; fro; froward; from; furnish; furniture; further; galore; hysteron-proteron; impervious; improbity; impromptu; improve; palfrey; par (prep.); para- (1) "alongside, beyond; altered; contrary; irregular, abnormal;" paradise; pardon; paramount; paramour; parvenu; pellucid; per; per-; percent; percussion; perennial; perestroika; perfect; perfidy; perform; perfume; perfunctory; perhaps; peri-; perish; perjury; permanent; permeate; permit; pernicious; perpendicular; perpetual; perplex; persecute; persevere; perspective; perspire; persuasion; pertain; peruse; pervade; pervert; pierce; portray; postprandial; prae-; Prakrit; pre-; premier; presbyter; Presbyterian; preterite; pride; priest; primal; primary; primate; primavera; prime; primeval; primitive; primo; primogenitor; primogeniture; primordial; primus; prince; principal; principle; prior; pristine; private; privilege; privy; pro (n.2) "a consideration or argument in favor;" pro-; probably; probe; probity; problem; proceed; proclaim; prodigal; produce; profane; profess; profile; profit; profound; profuse; project; promise; prompt; prone; proof; proper; property; propinquity; prophet; prose; prostate; prosthesis; protagonist; Protean; protect; protein; Proterozoic; protest; proto-; protocol; proton; protoplasm; Protozoa; proud; prove; proverb; provide; provoke; prow; prowess; proximate; Purana; purchase; purdah; reciprocal; rapprochement; reproach; reprove; veneer.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit pari "around, about, through," parah "farther, remote, ulterior," pura "formerly, before," pra- "before, forward, forth;" Avestan pairi- "around," paro "before;" Hittite para "outside of," Greek peri "around, about, near, beyond," pera "across, beyond," paros "before," para "from beside, beyond," pro "before;" Latin pro "before, for, on behalf of, instead of," porro "forward," prae "before," per "through;" Old Church Slavonic pra-dedu "great-grandfather;" Russian pere- "through;" Lithuanian per "through;" Old Irish ire "farther," roar "enough;" Gothic faura "before," Old English fore (prep.) "before, in front of," (adv.) "before, previously," fram "forward, from," feor "to a great distance, long ago;" German vor "before, in front of;" Old Irish air- Gothic fair-, German ver-, Old English fer-, intensive prefixes.

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fundamental (adj.)

mid-15c., "primary, original, pertaining to a foundation," modeled on Late Latin fundamentalis "of the foundation," from Latin fundamentum "foundation" (see fundament). In music (1732) it refers to the lowest note of a chord. Fundamentals (n.) "primary principles or rules" of anything is from 1630s.

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prototypical (adj.)

"pertaining to a prototype, being or constituting a primary form," 1640s, from prototype + -ical. Alternative prototypal is from 1690s.

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monotonic (adj.)

in music, etc., "of or pertaining to a single, unvarying note," 1797; see mono- + tonic (adj.). Related: Monotonically.

The secondary sense of monotonous (same or tedious) has so nearly swallowed up its primary (of one pitch or tone) that it is well worth while to remember the existence of monotonic, which has the primary sense only. [Fowler, 1926]
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phone (n.2)

"elementary sound of a spoken language, one of the primary elements of utterance," 1866, from Greek phōnē "sound, voice" (from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say").

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monotonous (adj.)

1750, of sound, "unvaried in tone, characterized by monotony, unvaried in tone," from Greek monotonos "of one tone" (see monotony). Transferred and figurative use, "lacking in variety, uninteresting, tiresomely uniform," is from 1783. Related: Monotonously; monotonousness.

The secondary sense of monotonous (same or tedious) has so nearly swallowed up its primary (of one pitch or tone) that it is well worth while to remember the existence of monotonic, which has the primary sense only. [Fowler]
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