1. First in order of time; original; primeval; primitive; primary. "Prime forests." "She was not the prime cause, but I myself." (Milton)
In this sense the word is nearly superseded by primitive, except in the phrase prime cost.
2. First in rank, degree, dignity, authority, or importance; as, prime minister. "Prime virtues."
3. First in excellence; of highest quality; as, prime wheat; a prime quality of cloth.
4. Early; blooming; being in the first stage. "His starry helm, unbuckled, showed him prime In manhood where youth ended." (Milton)
5. Lecherous; lustful; lewd.
6. Marked or distinguished by a mark (') called a prime mark. Prime and ultimate ratio.
<mathematics> The vertical circle which passes through the east and west points of the horizon. Prime-vertical dial, a dial in which the shadow is projected on the plane of the prime vertical. Prime-vertical transit instrument, a transit instrument the telescope of which revolves in the plane of the prime vertical, used for observing the transit of stars over this circle.
Origin: F, fr. L. Primus first, a superl. Corresponding to the compar. Prior former. See Prior, Foremost, Former, and cf. Prim, Primary, Prince.
1. The first part; the earliest stage; the beginning or opening, as of the day, the year, etc.; hence, the dawn; the spring. "In the very prime of the world." (Hooker) "Hope waits upon the flowery prime." (Waller)
2. The spring of life; youth; hence, full health, strength, or beauty; perfection. "Cut off in their prime." . "The prime of youth."
3. That which is first in quantity; the most excellent portion; the best part. "Give him always of the prime." (Swift)
4. [F. Prime, LL. Prima (sc. Hora). See Prime] The morning; specifically, the first canonical hour, succeeding to lauds. "Early and late it rung, at evening and at prime." (Spenser)
Originally, prime denoted the first quarter of the artificial day, reckoned from 6 a. M. To 6 p. M. Afterwards, it denoted the end of the first quarter, that is, 9 a. A. Specifically, it denoted the first canonical hour, as now. Chaucer uses it in all these senses, and also in the sense of def. 1, above. "They sleep till that it was pryme large." (Chaucer)
5. The first of the chief guards.
6. <chemistry> Any number expressing the combining weight or equivalent of any particular element; so called because these numbers were respectively reduced to their lowest relative terms on the fixed standard of hydrogen as 1.
7. <mathematics> A prime number. See Prime.
8. An inch, as composed of twelve seconds in the duodecimal system; denoted by ['] See Inch. Prime of the moon, the new moon at its first appearance.
1. To apply priming to, as a musket or a cannon; to apply a primer to, as a metallic cartridge.
2. To lay the first colour, coating, or preparation upon (a surface), as in painting; as, to prime a canvas, a wall.
3. To prepare; to make ready; to instruct beforehand; to post; to coach; as, to prime a witness; the boys are primed for mischief.
4. To trim or prune, as trees.
5. <mathematics> To mark with a prime mark. To prime a pump, to charge a pump with water, in order to put it in working condition.
Origin: From Prime.
(01 Mar 1998)