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1. Anthropol denoting or relating to a preliterate and nonindustrial social system
2. Biology
a. of, relating to, or resembling an early stage in the evolutionary development of a particular group of organisms
b. another word for primordial
3. showing the characteristics of primitive painters; untrained, childlike, or naive
4. Geology pertaining to magmas that have experienced only small degrees of fractional crystallization or crystal contamination
5. Obsolete of, relating to, or denoting rocks formed in or before the Palaeozoic era
6. Protestant theol of, relating to, or associated with a minority group that breaks away from a sect, denomination, or Church in order to return to what is regarded as the original simplicity of the Gospels
a. an artist whose work does not conform to traditional, academic, or avant-garde standards of Western painting, such as a painter from an African or Oceanic civilization
b. a painter of the pre-Renaissance era in European painting
c. a painter of any era whose work appears childlike or untrained
8. a work by such an artist
9. Maths a curve, function, or other form from which another is derived
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



originally, a work of art from the early period of the evolution of art. The concept of the “primitive” arose from the juxtaposition, characteristic of 18th- and 19th-century aesthetics and art studies, of “childish” and “mature” stages in the development of art. It was believed, especially beginning in the 18th century, that primitive art could be attractive by virtue of the wholeness and seeming simplicity of its pictorial organization. These features emerged most strongly when primitive works were compared with works representing the prevailing styles.

In modern art studies, the designation “primitive” has entirely lost all judgmental overtones and is purely a name. It is applied to works by late medieval artists (for example, the Italian primitives), to the art of peoples who have retained features of primitive communal society (this concept of primitive art, however, has currency only in foreign scholarship), to the work of artists who have not received systematic artistic training, and to the work of the representatives of primitivism.


Previtali, G. La Fortuna dei primitivi dal Vasari ai neoclassici. Turin, 1964.
Venturi, L. Il gusto dei primitivi. Turin, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(computer science)
A sketchy specification, omitting details, of some action in a computer program.
(control systems)
A basic operation of a robot, initialized by a single command statement in the program that controls the robot.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A function, operator, or type which is built into a programming language (or operating system), either for speed of execution or because it would be impossible to write it in the language. Primitives typically include the arithmetic and logical operations (plus, minus, and, or, etc.) and are implemented by a small number of machine language instructions.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


(1) See primitive data type.

(2) In computer graphics, an element that is used as a building block for creating images, such as a point, line, arc, cone or sphere.

(3) In programming, a fundamental instruction, statement or operation. See machine instruction.

(4) In microprogramming, a microinstruction, or elementary machine operation. See microcode.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
By compromising the opportune primitiveness of Filipino Muslims and pre-empting the Americans' civilising project, Moro affiliation with Islam threatened to undermine the legitimacy and purity of the imperial project in Mindanao and Sulu.
What is intoxicating in Twombly's work is the combination of an almost regressive primitiveness with a level of humanistic cultivation matched in American art only by Robert Motherwell.
Reminded of the cruelty and primitiveness that can surface in a nation that seems admirable in so many other ways.
The second condition provides testimony to the inaccuracy of propaganda: Friendly soldiers begin to commit the very acts that they have previously been highlighted to demonstrate the primitiveness or evilness of the enemy, which demonstrates the inaccuracy of propaganda because it portrays the practice of evil activities as a behavior solely characteristic of the enemy.
Embedded in this view of the primitiveness of pictographs is the Eurocentric belief that it was only with the development of alphabetic writing that the Greeks were able to develop philosophy, the concept of law, and the concept of justice; purportedly, this was because once written, previously spoken ephemeral thoughts now registered and fixed on paper, and distanced from the immediacy of their context of occurrence, could become the object of sophisticated contemplation.
The culture that these beings learn from the humans reifies colonialist constructions of 'primitiveness'.
Also worth checking out are the strong pen cartoons, which resemble woodcuts in their primitiveness. Very cool.
The hospital horrified Western critics for its primitiveness and chaotic insanitariness, but it made its patients feel at home.
The "faeces round the campfire' issue, aside from being an unsettling motif for the whole debate, is by common consent the most ludicrous and squalid of the allegations of primitiveness. It nevertheless demands reply, since the imputation is that the Tasmanian Aborigines weren't toilet trained.
They say the primitiveness of the accommodation provides much of its charm,and that modernisation would spoil it.
Wood also discusses this but, with greater care, suggests that the tension bespeaks no relativist world-view, something he explicitly rejects, but 'the moral and ethical primitiveness of the hero of faith under the Law' (p.