1. next after the first in order, place, time, etc.
  2. belonging or pertaining to a second order, division, stage, period, rank, grade, etc.
  3. (in scholarly studies) pertaining to or being a derived or derivative account, an evaluation of original data, etc.; not primary or original, as in secondary source; secondary research.
  4. of minor or lesser importance; subordinate; auxiliary.
  5. of or relating to secondary schools.
  6. Chemistry.
    1. involving or obtained by the replacement of two atoms or groups.
    2. noting or containing a carbon atom united to two other carbon atoms in a chain or ring molecule.
  7. Electricity. noting or pertaining to the current induced by a primary winding or to the winding in which the current is induced in an induction coil, transformer, or the like.
  8. Geology. noting or pertaining to a mineral produced from another mineral by decay, alteration, or the like.
  9. Grammar.
    1. (of a derivative) having a root or other unanalyzable element that is itself a word or free form: The word “glazier” is a secondary derivative formed by adding a suffix to “glaze.” The word “debatably” is formed directly from “debatable” and is therefore a secondary derivative from “debate.”
    2. having reference to past time; noting or pertaining to a past tense: the Latin, Greek, or Sanskrit secondary tenses.Compare primary(def 13).
  10. Ornithology. pertaining to any of a set of flight feathers on the second segment of a bird’s wing.
  11. Linguistics. of, relating to, or characteristic of a secondary accent: secondary stress.

noun, plural sec·ond·ar·ies.

  1. a person or thing that is secondary.
  2. a subordinate, assistant, deputy, or agent.
  3. Electricity. a winding in a transformer or the like in which a current is induced by a primary winding.
  4. Ornithology. a secondary feather.
  5. Football. the defensive unit that lines up behind the linemen.
  6. Linguistics. secondary accent.


  1. one grade or step after the first; not primary
  2. derived from or depending on what is primary, original, or firsta secondary source
  3. below the first in rank, importance, etc; not of major importance
  4. (prenominal) of or relating to the education of young people between the ages of 11 and 18secondary education
  5. (of the flight feathers of a bird’s wing) growing from the ulna
    1. being the part of an electric circuit, such as a transformer or induction coil, in which a current is induced by a changing current in a neighbouring coila secondary coil
    2. (of a current) flowing in such a circuitCompare primary (def. 7)
  6. (of an industry) involving the manufacture of goods from raw materialsCompare primary (def. 8b), tertiary (def. 2)
  7. geology (of minerals) formed by the alteration of pre-existing minerals
  8. chem
    1. (of an organic compound) having a functional group attached to a carbon atom that is attached to one hydrogen atom and two other groups
    2. (of an amine) having only two organic groups attached to a nitrogen atom; containing the group NH
    3. (of a salt) derived from a tribasic acid by replacement of two acidic hydrogen atoms with metal atoms or electropositive groups
  9. linguistics
    1. derived from a word that is itself a derivation from another word. Thus, lovably comes from lovable and is a secondary derivative from love
    2. (of a tense in Latin, Greek, or Sanskrit) another word for historic (def. 3)

noun plural -aries

  1. a person or thing that is secondary
  2. a subordinate, deputy, or inferior
  3. a secondary coil, winding, inductance, or current in an electric circuit
  4. ornithol any of the flight feathers that grow from the ulna of a bird’s wingSee primary (def. 6)
  5. astronomy a celestial body that orbits around a specified primary bodythe moon is the secondary of the earth
  6. med a cancerous growth in some part of the body away from the site of the original tumour
  7. American football
    1. the secondarycornerbacks and safeties collectively
    2. their area in the field
  8. short for secondary colour

adj.late 14c., from Latin secundarius “pertaining to the second class, inferior,” from secundus (see second (adj.)). Of colors, from 1831; of education, from 1809. Of sex characteristics from 1780. Opposed to primary or principal. Related: Secondarily. adj.

  1. Of the second rank; not primary.
  2. Inferior.
  3. Minor; lesser.
  4. Derived from what is primary or original.
  5. Of or relating to a chemical compound characterized or formed by replacement of two atoms or radicals within a molecule.
  6. Of, relating to, or being a degree of health care intermediate between that offered in a physician’s office and that available at a research hospital, as the care typically offered at a clinic or community hospital.

  1. Relating to a secondary color.
  2. Relating to or derived from either of the lateral meristems (the cork cambium or the vascular cambium) of vascular plants. For example, secondary xylem in a stem is produced by the vascular cambium, as opposed to primary xylem produced by the apical meristem during the original growth of the stem from a seedling. See also secondary growth.
    1. Relating to or having a carbon atom that is attached to two other carbon atoms in a molecule.
    2. Relating to an organic molecule, such as an alcohol, in which the functional group is attached to a secondary carbon.
  3. Relating to a medical condition that arises as a result of another disorder, disease process, or injury. Compare primary tertiary.

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