Definition of secondary in English:


See synonyms for secondary

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  • 1Coming after, less important than, or resulting from someone or something else that is primary.

    ‘the plot is of secondary importance: what matters most is the relationships between the characters’
    • ‘luck plays a role, but it's ultimately secondary to local knowledge’
    • ‘But, important as it was, it was still secondary to Johnny's primary concern and that was people.’
    • ‘Each group or person has individual goals - but in a partnership, they have to be secondary to the primary joint goal.’
    • ‘In some senses, the race is secondary to the social importance of this event.’
    • ‘Providing humanitarian aid was secondary to supporting combat operations.’
    • ‘Ownership is important, but it's secondary to generating competition.’
    • ‘Similarly, texts have a secondary importance - the primary mode of transmission of knowledge is oral.’
    • ‘The authors conclude that secondary prevention of stroke requires dietary, smoking, medical and, possibly, surgical intervention.’
    • ‘The vascular lesions are probably secondary to chronic inflammation and fibrosis in the adjacent lung.’
    • ‘Frequently, sequestration is discovered when a patient develops symptoms that are usually secondary to infection or associated cardiac disease.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that secondary endosymbiosis involves a complicated series of events.’
    • ‘The consequence is that secondary bacterial infection is quite common in diseased skin.’
    • ‘Variables such as artist, condition and rarity are secondary in importance.’
    • ‘As the centuries passed, personal loyalty and service became almost secondary to the acquisition of property.’
    • ‘We were doing our best, but our role was becoming distinctly secondary.’
    • ‘In the parts related to these subjects of the study, again, mostly secondary sources were used.’
    • ‘The plot seems almost secondary to the idea of being offbeat.’
    • ‘Most of the speakers felt that men had always treated women as secondary beings.’
    • ‘But it seems inexplicable that he used so few primary as well as secondary materials.’
    • ‘To maintain growth Ryanair will need to continue seeking out new routes to new secondary airports.’
    • ‘The villain is so lacking in character or interest that he seems secondary.’
    subordinate, lesser, lower, lower-level, minor, peripheral, incidental, tangential, marginal, ancillary, subsidiary, subservient, non-essential, inessential, of little account, unimportant, less important
    indirect, non-primary, derived, derivative, resulting, resultant, concomitant, accompanying, consequential, contingent, second-hand
    alternative, spare, extra, additional, another, backup, supporting, relief, fallback, substitute, auxiliary
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1mainly British Relating to education for children from the age of eleven to sixteen or eighteen.
      ‘a secondary school’
      • ‘All four colleges provided training for secondary school teachers on integrated academic curricula.’
      • ‘I teach them for eight years before they go to boarding school to complete their secondary education.’
      • ‘Primary education lasts until the age of eleven, followed by secondary education.’
      • ‘I did my secondary education at Chibi High School, a boarding school.’
      • ‘The pointillist painting method can be adapted to all levels of elementary and secondary art education.’
      • ‘Recommended course series for early childhood educators, elementary educators, and secondary educators have been designed.’
      • ‘As the Secretary of State for Education embarks on secondary curriculum revision, can we hope he will seize a tide?’
      • ‘Alexandra College in Milltown, Dublin, offers kindergarten, junior and secondary level education for girls.’
      • ‘In our work as secondary English educators, we know we should routinely consider the literacy practices that best meet the needs of our students.’
      • ‘After I felt that my mission had drawn to a close, I was assigned to teach physical education to Taiwanese secondary school students.’
      • ‘No, I spent primary school and my secondary education in a State school.’
      • ‘Louis studied at the Lyceé Janson de Sailly in Paris completing his secondary school education in 1909.’
      • ‘Mr Curtis said he hoped to take a primary school teacher and a secondary school science head teacher with him on his trip, which could be in May.’
      • ‘At least for secondary school teachers, you could crowd all the education stuff that you need on lesson planning and discipline into one class.’
      • ‘Many students drop out of secondary education or university.’
      • ‘All but two students had received secondary school education in the United Kingdom.’
      • ‘Very few teachers, especially in secondary schools, were funded to develop new curricula for themselves using computers.’
      • ‘About 90 percent of students who finish elementary school continue their education at the secondary level.’
      • ‘Such a system is needed to make post secondary education more accessible.’
      • ‘The Schools Minister added that a new secondary school will be built in Swindon by 2011.’
      • ‘The new secondary school will open in September.’
  • 2Chemistry
    (of an organic compound) having its functional group located on a carbon atom which is bonded to two other carbon atoms.

    ‘Similar to ions, secreted secondary compounds are positioned to be leached to the soil, in some cases for the purpose of contributing to allelopathy.’
    • ‘Manufacture of ketones can also be carried out by the dehydrogenation of a secondary alcohol at high temperature.’
    • ‘Just aft of the close-coupled catalyst sits a particulate filter and secondary oxidation catalyst.’
    • ‘In this example, the first molecule is a primary alcohol and the second is a secondary alcohol.’
    1. 2.1(chiefly of amines) derived from ammonia by replacement of two hydrogen atoms by organic groups.
      ‘Reaction with nitrous acid is used to distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary amines.’
      • ‘Tricyclic antidepressants may be categorized as secondary or tertiary amines.’
      • ‘The acidic pH of the stomach would favour the nitrosation of secondary and tertiary amines in the quid.’
      • ‘Subsequent synthesis reactions using different primary, secondary, and aromatic amines had similar reaction and precipitation times.’
  • 3Ecology
    Denoting or relating to organisms in a particular community that belong to the second trophic level among its consumers, and consume primary consumers.

    • ‘when a bear eats a plant-eating rodent, the bear is functioning as a secondary consumer’
  • 4Relating to or denoting the output side of a device using electromagnetic induction, especially in a transformer.

    ‘the primary and secondary coils of the transformer’
    • ‘Apply the ac voltage to the primary winding and expect output voltage at the secondary side.’
    • ‘The burst in current causes a change in voltage in the secondary coil, which in turn causes a change in voltage in the feedback coil.’
    • ‘The reverse polarity creates a peak current about twice as high as the six amps of coil current on the primary side, and a higher peak-to-peak current on the secondary side.’
    • ‘The alternating flux in the core in turn induces an alternating current in each of the secondary coils.’
    • ‘It's broadly the same way a power transformer works, with a primary coil generating a current in a secondary coil, the difference between the number of loops in each coil governing the change to the voltage.’
    1. 4.1Having a reversible chemical reaction and therefore able to store energy.
      ‘the lead-acid accumulator used in cars consists of secondary cells’
      • ‘ATP is the power molecule used all over organisms and their cells to power the secondary reactions that keep us alive.’
  • 5

    (also Secondary)
    former term for Mesozoic

    ‘We learn that there was a time when Cephalopoda were the highest types of animal life; and that during the secondary period they were anatomically raised far above any forms of the reptile class now living in the world.’
    • ‘These big limestone tables are formed in the secondary era.’



/ˈsekənˌderē/ /ˈsɛkənˌdɛri/

nounplural noun secondaries

  • 1A secondary coil or winding in an electrical transformer.

    • ‘Each secondary will feature 672 voice-coil actuators, now in the final stages of fabrication in Italy.’
  • 2Ornithology
    A secondary feather.

    ‘One or more additional layers of shorter feathers may overlie the proximal parts of the flight primaries and secondaries.’
    • ‘Characteristics shared with other Apodiformes include: tiny feet, long wings with long primaries, short humeri and short secondaries.’
    • ‘The white secondaries of each wing were clearly visible, separated by the black back of the bird, and they reached all the way to the trailing edge of the wings.’
    • ‘It is mostly black, with white at the trailing edge of the secondaries, on the sides of the rump, and on the throat, narrowing towards the belly.’
    • ‘In all cases, we obtained wax extracts from flight feathers, predominantly primaries and secondaries.’
  • 3the SecondaryGeology
    dated The Secondary or Mesozoic era.

  • 4American Football
    The players in the defensive backfield, or the area these players cover.

    ‘They also don't have the passing game to burn Baltimore's suspect secondary.’
    • ‘Busted assignments, especially by a young secondary, have led to huge plays.’
    • ‘Just as important, he is a stabilizing element in a young secondary.’
    • ‘He's an explosive playmaker who has the speed to get behind opposing secondaries for big plays.’
    • ‘Sure, that trio gave the Eagles perhaps the most formidable secondary in the league.’



/ˈsekənˌderē/ /ˈsɛkənˌdɛri/


Late Middle English from Latin secundarius ‘of the second quality or class’, from secundus (see second).