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I have a requirement that includes references to "major" and "minor" locations (referring to one main location and less significant ones). I have a feeling that "primary" and "secondary" are more correct in this context, but I can't prove it.

Am I correct? And, if I am, where should I look to prove my point?

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Not directly related, but I've always liked the word 'tertiary' and try not to miss an opportunity to use it. It comes after 'secondary'. –  Sam Apr 12 '11 at 14:49
    
I was going to point out that in UK we have main and major roads, but not primary roads. But Google informs me that the Republic of Ireland has National Primary Road as an official classification... –  FumbleFingers Apr 12 '11 at 15:38

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Secondary" does work in place of "minor":

coming after, less important than, or resulting from someone or something else that is primary

So the primary/secondary pair can work for major/minor but I don't see anything wrong with using major/minor. The pairings are synonymous.

That being said, I find major/minor to be more common for things like sports leagues and injuries:

He plays in the minor leagues

We treat major injuries before minor injuries

I do consider primary/secondary more appropriate for locations:

This is our primary site.

Take this to the secondary office

My hunches are saying that this is partly politics. "Secondary" sounds less diminutive than "minor" or more of a shift in focus than of size. The idea that the secondary and primary items could swap positions is more becoming than swapping the uses major and minor.

In other words, major and minor tend to apply better for objects of different scale or size. Primary and secondary are more apt for diplomatic or focal designations.

Another point worth considering is the addition of "tertiary" to the primary/secondary pair. I am unaware of a suitable third option for major/minor.

As for you proving your point, you probably will not be able to without building a better consensus. The major/minor pair does work in this situation. If you really wanted to go the extra mile you would want to check other uses of major/minor and primary/secondary for applications to locations.

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Minor more connotes low significance objectively; secondary connotes low significance, relative to primary. For example a "minor burn" is one that is not serious, whereas a "secondary burn" is one that is less extensive or life-threatening than the "primary burn" but may still in itself be very serious.

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I think the best is to use "primary location" for your primary/major location and "location" for all other locations.

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Firstly, if you are talking about a context, where is it? You forgot to include the context, so ... I am not sure how we should help.

Secondly, as far as I know, "major" and "minor" locations are generally big/small areas, but "primary" and "secondary" are more like objectives, therefore, you can say,

Our primary location we'll be visiting is this small area called X and the secondary location we'll be visiting, if any time remains, is New York.

Therefore, "primary" and "secondary" don't necessarily talk about the size of a place, but rather about how you value this place in a specific situation.

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Thanks for your answer. I do now understand that I didn't provide enough context, but it was still very helpful. Unfortunately I can not approve all answers at once, so I selected the most detailed one. –  Andrey Shchekin Apr 12 '11 at 13:27

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