Definition of primeval in English:


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(also British primaeval)
  • 1Of or resembling the earliest ages in the history of the world.

    ‘mile after mile of primeval forest’
    • ‘This is life in a swamp, a primeval wet forest from which the great diversity of Australia's modern fauna sprung.’
    • ‘The natural, primeval clock is the sun, by whose light we see to perform our daily tasks.’
    • ‘Genesis 12 marks a shift from primeval history to the stories of the patriarchs.’
    • ‘Tramping through the primeval swamp, you re not thinking of ancient seas or planetary evolution.’
    • ‘Eckels is hurtled back to a primeval jungle to bag the biggest of game, the Tyrannosaurus rex, with the added charge that he must not disturb any other part of the natural world, lest he upset the delicate time-space continuum.’
    • ‘As the sun sets over Kanha, the forest reverts to its primeval magic.’
    • ‘They left the past behind, in Africa, the Amazon, and elsewhere - primeval places, filled with primeval peoples at different stages in the evolution of civilization.’
    • ‘They look so ancient and their seed pods often look primeval, but they turn out to be one of the more recent species around - still speciating, said the eucalyptologist.’
    • ‘This was told in several impressive episodes, from primeval Britons through Romans, Saxons and Stuarts.’
    • ‘In the depth of the forest the primeval stillness was a bit awesome until a family of wild piglets moved in and started to root reassuringly through the chestnuts at my feet.’
    • ‘A Taoist Holyland for 1,600 years, Sanqing Nountain is known for its many grotesque rocks, waterfalls and lush primeval forest set in a sea of clouds and mist.’
    • ‘Exposed by a recent forest fire, the primeval topography of these Catalan Vineyard terraces has a potent grandeur shaped by both the forces of nature and the hand of human intervention.’
    • ‘Decent folk who'd left behind the corrupt world - always somewhere to the east - came to a land of primeval beauty and promise and set about turning a little chunk of it into a nice, prosperous garden.’
    • ‘The Ancient Gods moved across the face of the primeval waters, and from their union and council came the shapers of the universal Mei, who, both together and alone, began the shape of what was to come.’
    • ‘The downs are a great mass of chalk resulting from some primeval upheaval which give the northern half of the county its distinctive rounded look, with great hump-backed hills like Martinsell near Oare, Milk Hill and Tan Hill.’
    • ‘Fresh from a hot shower and a good night's sleep under white sheets, she now strides a few yards into a primeval world - the rich cacophony of a thriving tropical forest.’
    • ‘Indeed, the modern fascination with exotic, primeval creatures had its origins deep within the fossil collections of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many of which were gathered in Britain by clergymen.’
    • ‘I imagined the Tasmanian tiger stopping here en route from one primeval forest valley to another.’
    • ‘Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as that of the primeval atom from which the whole of the physical world derived, leaves open the problem concerning the beginning of the Universe.’
    • ‘Body armour is one of the few consistently continuing threads which link the modern warrior not only with his primeval ancestor but also with warriors throughout the history of mankind.’
    ancient, earliest, first, prehistoric, antediluvian, antique, primordial, primitive, primal
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    1. 1.1(of feelings or actions) based on primitive instinct; raw and elementary.
      ‘a primeval desire’
      • ‘Getting up in the mornings becomes more difficult, going home in the evenings seems to provoke a primeval instinct for slumping in front of the television or crawling under the duvet.’
      • ‘Roger Deakin, whose aquatic voyage round Britain is charted in his book, Waterlog, believes the roots of our deep affinity with water are primeval.’
      • ‘This is a very primeval shame, deeply seated in man's psyche.’
      • ‘Extraordinarily, the staff seemed to understand his primeval form of communication.’
      • ‘‘Getting square’ is the primeval act of revenge - on an informer or somebody who has transgressed the protocols and proprieties of criminal boundaries.’
      • ‘Remember, the naïve innocent starts out automatically and without reservations accepting what people in authority say without the cynic's primeval urge to question, question and question.’
      • ‘Angela Carter, too, relished the primeval terrors of the fairy tale world, rekindling it in her own tales of bloody chambers and rampant wolves.’
      • ‘Barefoot elfin girls dance in primeval delight, the Arch-Druid drinks the wine of welcome out of the Horn of Hirlas, a throwback to the drinking horns of 12 th Century Welsh princes.’
      • ‘We have shivered in the Benguela current off the Cape, partly from cold, partly from primaeval instinct.’
      • ‘The experience is so viscerally thrilling, so primeval and satisfying, a huge laugh of relief and joy escapes from my chest.’
      • ‘Equally, non-parents need to respect the fact that the parent-child bond is incredibly strong, to an almost primeval degree.’
      • ‘As we lounged, slapping grey mud on our faces in a bid to cleanse our pores, if not our livers, it began to snow, the flakes descending into the rising steam as if fighting some ancient primeval battle.’
      • ‘Our fears seem less primeval when we notice that the island's warden, Adrian, is staring at the tide and looking concerned.’
      • ‘Freud approaches this situation by way of the model of the primeval id set against the cultivations of the superego; Marcuse counterpoints the libidinous Eros impulse against the regulating structures of Civilisation.’
      • ‘Brian felt it the moment he entered the city limits - a sudden primeval chill, an instinctive animal watchfulness.’
      • ‘For most of the time that there has been music on this earth, it has been repetitive and while I can appreciate complexity in music, it is the repetition which gets the more primeval instincts going.’
      • ‘I would be a fool to try and fathom the primeval instinct that exists in all men that draws them to amateur civil engineering.’
      • ‘But there is something absurd about the way they circle this territory like two ancient stags, their antlers locked in some primeval combat, whose origins is long forgotten.’
      • ‘Arresting in their circularity, these poems achieve a primeval force that is like some great lost original rhythm.’
      • ‘The characteristic apricot scent of these prized wild mushrooms triggers primeval hunter gatherer instincts, making a country walk attractive to even the most hardened townie.’
      instinctive, primitive, basic, primal, primordial, intuitive, intuitional, involuntary, inborn, innate, inherent, inbred, natural, congenital, hereditary, inherited, in the blood, ingrained
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/prīˈmēv(ə)l/ /praɪˈmiv(ə)l/


Mid 17th century from Latin primaevus (from primus ‘first’ + aevum ‘age’) + -al.