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.

updated on March 22, 2022