• The fact of being primary, preeminent, or more important.
  • The office, period of office, or authority of a primate of certain churches.
  • (Psychology) The fact of an item having been presented earlier to the subject (especially as increasing its likelihood of being remembered).

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Example Sentences

“Mr. Decker was confident in his primacy as the leader of the party.”

“Bishop Paulson’s primacy lasted for more than 10 years.”

“Due to the primacy effect, Nicola remembered the items from the top of the grocery list better than those listed further down.”

Word Origin

Late Middle English, mid-14th century

Why this word?

If “primacy” makes you think of the word “primate,” you’re on to something. Both words are derived from the Latin “primat-” and “primas,” meaning “of the first rank.” Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus gave the name to the order he believed to be the highest order of animals. All humans are primates, but so are gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, and many other species. Elsewhere, in the field of psychology, the “primacy effect” is a cognitive bias that causes us to remember the first items on a list better than those presented to us later. This happens because a greater amount of processing is devoted to those initial items, causing them to be stored more effectively in our long-term memory. This effect is even more likely to occur when we’re tired or distracted.

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