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From Latin primaevus (in the first or earliest period of life) +‎ -al, from primus (first) + aevum (time, age); see prime and age.


  • enPR: "prīm'ēvəl, IPA(key): /ˈpɹaɪˌmi.vəl/


primeval (comparative more primeval, superlative most primeval)

  1. Belonging to the first ages.
  2. Primary; original.
    • 1827 July, “Asiatic Society of Calcutta”, in The Oriental Herald, and Journal of General Literature, volume XIV, number 43, London: Printed for the editor, and sold by all booksellers [printed by J. R. Gordon, 147, Strand, →OCLC, page 147:
      A letter from Mr. [Brian Houghton] Hodgson to Mr. Bayley, was then read, giving an outline of the theocracy of the Buddha system of Nepal. [] According to the information now communicated, the northern Buddhas acknowledge four sets of divine beings, or of superhuman objects of veneration. The first of these is, contrary to the generally supposed atheistical tendency of the faith, one primæval and uncreated deity. This first Buddha manifested five of his attributes, as five secondary Buddhas; in one of whom, Amitabha, or the 'immeasurably splendid,' in Prakrit and Pali, Amitabo, we recognise the Amito of the Japanese.
    • 1831, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter VI, in Romance and Reality. [], volume III, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, [], →OCLC, page 116:
      But if life has a happiness over which the primeval curse has passed and harmed not, it is the early and long enduring affection of blood and habit.
  3. Primitive.
    • 1957, H. E. Bates, Death of a Huntsman:
      If their views were entrancing their sanitation was primeval; if they possessed stables they were also next to the gas-works; if their gardens were delightful there were odours suspicious of mice in the bedrooms.

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