Primary, primal, primordial, primitive, pristine, primeval, prime mean first in some respect (as order, character, or importance).
Something primary comes first in the order of development or of progression. Sometimes the term means little more than initial , but sometimes it acquires the implications of fundamental, elemental, or elementary, and describes the part or element that is first (as in time or in importance) or one of such parts or elements in a complicated structure, substance, or system and at other times it means original in the sense of not being derived.
But primary may convey little or no suggestion of a time order and imply superiority in importance, thereby coming close to principal .
Primal applies to what is primary in the sense of initial, fundamental, or elemental or to what goes back to the origin or to the beginnings, especially of the human race.
Primordial applies to what serves as the starting point in a course of development or growth or is the earliest in order or in formation. The term often suggests a rudimentary quality or state; thus, the primordial ooze is thought of as the substance out of which the earth was formed; a primordial cell is in biology the first and least specialized of a line of cells.
Something primitive belongs to or is associated with an early stage, often but not necessarily a remote stage, in the development of something (as the human race). Often, when used in reference to art or manufacture, the term suggests lack of knowledge of such modern techniques or conventions as perspective in painting or modes in mensurable music or automation in industry.
When used in reference to persons, their ways of living, or their instincts, emotions, or laws, it usually suggests either a connection with a very rudimentary civilization or a retention of a character or quality associated with such a civilization.
Often, however, the term merely stresses an opposition to what is highly civilized or sophisticated and therefore unduly complicated, and may suggest naturalness or simplicity.
Pristine applies to something in its earliest and freshest and newest state.
Primeval in its basic sense applies to something which belongs to or is characteristic of the first ages of the earth. Often, however, the term merely suggests extreme antiquity or the absence of all signs of human trespass or influence.
Prime in its basic sense comes very close to primordial and primitive in designating what is first in order of time, but in its more common use it applies specifically to what is first in rank, degree, or dignity or sometimes to what is merely choice or excellent of its kind.