Is there a specific term to refer to all animals that are not primates? I have a text about the beginnings of brain research, in which the animals studied are divided into "simple animals" (mice, guinea pig, mole, rabbit, reptiles etc.) and "complex mammals and humans" (monkeys, apes, humans). The latter are primates, but I have no idea how to refer to the former group ("simple animals" is so imprecise). I tried on Wiki, but I got completely lost in all those Latin scientific classifications...

  • 3
    How about non-primates? Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 8:26
  • Sure, but I thought maybe there's some specific term.
    – shogun
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 8:30

1 Answer 1


Popular imagination, at least in the parts of the English-speaking world with which I can claim some familiarity, does not subdivide the world into primates and non-primates. This is not a traditional distinction— no traditional grouping would have included humans, orangutans, and lemurs in the same collective—and as a scientific categorization, the division is useful only so far as it is for any subdivision of animals: ungulates, annelids, hummingbirds.

Animals which are not primates are simply nonprimates (or non-primates), just as we might add non-ungulates, non-annelids, and non-hummingbirds to the conversation. Biologists may have more specialized terminology, but none that has made its way into popular usage. Nonprimate is certainly a term one can find in primatology journals.

Separate terminology is more common when the distinguishing characteristics are more readily observable than genetic maps, and when the groups are conceptually more equal. Traditional divisions include vertebrate and invertebrate animals and warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals, and more nebulously, the divisions between large and small animals and between higher and lower animals, the boundaries of which no two people will always agree upon.

  • But isn't it that non-primates are first understood as mammals that aren't primates? I'd like to put non-primates, non-ungulates, the cold-blooded and invertebrate (etc.) under one term.
    – shogun
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 17:02
  • @shogun First understood among whom? The scope is established by context. Non-primates include not just sparrows and horses but spiders, archae, the planet Jupiter, and the completing the square method of factoring quadratic equations, for a certain kind of semiotician or philosopher.
    – choster
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 18:42

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