Target: I've been losing my mind ever since I learned "tertiary" corresponds to 3 instead of encompassing all the lower orders. I have bi-weekly need of a word in the same vein as primary/secondary, but unspecified and non-primary, when talking about computery things, religion, and philosophy. I'm looking specifically for a completion of the set; I'm aware of the hacks (see the following), but what is the term for non-specified non-primary primacy?

What it's not: A friend recently gave me hope when casually using the word "ancillary", but that is more precisely synonymous with secondary or auxiliary. I found "n-ary" to be an annoying invention to save specifically the unary/binary/ternary series, and "arity" includes the whole list and does not exclude primary importance. In A term that describes high-order ordinal numbers there are some decent hacks, but they don't always fit (test them in the example), and others require an extremely ambiguous "low" or "high" modifier which may serve to confuse more than elucidate.

Example: "While a maturity-befitting soteriology and Christology is necessary for effectual salvation, most eschatology (important as it is) is [not primary and not specifically secondary]. Even though prophecy is the revealed word of God, and it befits an aged believer to have developed a Biblically sound expectation of what to expect and hope for, it's hardly a matter that will make or break acceptance into the kingdom in the early stages of new life."

  • Dunno about this, but it's always been clear to me that the "proper" ordinal numbers are zeroeth, oneth, tooth, threeth, fourth, and fifeth.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 16, 2018 at 22:30
  • I'm not sure if this is where you're going, but would subordinate or subsidiary work for you? Jul 16, 2018 at 23:04
  • The correct word, if you didn't insist on that darned "-ary" at the end, would be subsequent.
    – Spencer
    Jul 17, 2018 at 2:35

1 Answer 1

  1. primary
  2. secondary
  3. tertiary
  4. quaternary
  5. quinary
  6. senary
  7. septenary
  8. octonary
  9. nonary

If you want to coin the term "anthary," you're a bit late:

By the way, your beef with "ancillary" seems unwarranted since it means exactly what you describe, describing something as being of a lesser or lower ordinal level.

Of course, you could always go with "subordinate" or "subordinal," as well, if that is what you mean.

  • In some usage cases "subordinal" seems sufficient, but with regard to completing the set "-ary" set, I think I'm satisfied with "anthary". Though I might still pull out "ancillary" depending on the audience for precisely your reason. My only beef is the "helper" or "#2" aspect of "ancillary". Thank you much (also for the link to the textbook)! Jul 17, 2018 at 20:52

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