As a non-native speaker, I'm struggling to express correctly the sense of priority of a given population in a sentence.

Is it correct to refer to "prioritary cities in the scope of the XYZ policy", meaning "cities over which priority has been given in the scope..."?

I don't think so. I've found several occurrences of "prioritary" with similar meaning on English books authored by non-native speakers, and it seems to be of common usage in other technical (programming) forums. On the other hand, the English dictionaries don't have an entry for it, and Google suggested that the word may be a misspelling.

I should note that there is an equivalent word at least in Portuguese and Spanish.

Any ideas?

Thank you

  • 4
    Prioritary is a mathematical term and almost unheard of outside of mathematics. Whether it is "correct" or not therefore depends on what kind of writing you are doing for what kind of work addressed to what kind of audience. It is possible that like planification or actorness, it has entered non-native usage via mistranslations from words like the Italian prioritari or the French prioritaire. – choster Jun 26 '18 at 14:31
  • the adjective in English is priority. The Romance languages have a different form for the adjective. Not English. There is a lot of very bad translation out there. I know since I am asked to correct and proofread text like that all the time. We say: priority [noun] in English. So, don't waste your time..... – Lambie Jun 26 '18 at 14:36
  • 1
    I don't recognize this word. What is it supposed to mean? I can't seem to figure out was intended by the example given. – Mitch Jun 26 '18 at 14:37
  • 1
    Thanks choster and Lambie, I will stick with "priority". And thanks Mitch, I have edited the question to clarify the meaning intended for "prioritary". – Daniel A Jun 26 '18 at 15:07
  • 1
    Even the phrase “over which priority has been given in the scope” is awkward and difficult to interpret. Does it mean that during the execution of the XYZ policy, some cities will receive the benefit of the policy before others (or even instead of others)? Unless there is a specific technical term with a very specific meaning in your discipline, I would think simpler language is better. – David K Jun 26 '18 at 18:20

Prioritary, as it appears in scholarly works, is a term from algebraic geometry for a concept I am not qualified to describe even in the vaguest terms. This sense is far from common in English, however, and does not appear in any major dictionary or in the OED.

As an adjective, priority is usually synonymous with high priority, i.e. assigned a higher degree of importance or attention: a priority client, priority boarding, a priority transmission from Starfleet, and probably, priority cities in the scope of the XYZ policy.

As a noun, however, priority can refer either to the order of precedence in general— you might triage your email inbox into high-priority, normal priority, and low-priority messages— or to the assignment of a higher order of precedence or attention to something.

Some languages appear to employ different words to make the distinction, e.g. priorité and prioritaire, приоритет and приоритетный, but English does not. Where you see prioritary in a non-mathematical context, therefore, I would suppose it to be a mistranslation.

Similarly, the verb to prioritize refers both to the general evaluation of something for its importance and to the assignment of a high level of importance to something. Thus, this filter prioritizes messages from clients can mean either that it evaluates and assigns a priority to the messages from clients, or that it assigns a high priority to all messages from clients and a lower priority to other messages. These messages are prioritized is similarly ambiguous. Additional context is required to understand which meaning is intended.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.