Plenary vs preliminary

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Plenary and preliminary are two words that are similar in pronunciation and spelling, and are sometimes confused. We will examine the differing definitions of plenary and preliminary, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Plenary means in full, absolute, unqualified in its completeness. Plenary may describe a meeting in which all qualified members are in attendance. A plenary indulgence is one in which the sinner is absolved of all sins. The word plenary is derived from the Latin word plenarius which means complete. Plenary is an adjective.

Preliminary describes something that occurs or is accomplished before the main event. Something may be preliminary because it is a prerequisite, or it may simply be a warm-up to the main event. The word preliminary is derived from the Latin word praeliminaris, meaning before the threshold. Preliminary is used as adjective or a noun, the plural form is preliminaries.


Cardinal Tobin said the AMECEA Plenary Assembly is “a reinforcement of the catholicity of the Church.” (Vatican News)

The NEC plenary chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh discussed some of the major issues such as transformation of several districts in the region, strengthening livelihood programmes, water resources management, catchment area treatment through afforestation, doubling farmers’ income by 2022, road connectivity. (The Morung Express)

A Michigan woman accused of beating a man with a tire iron and kitchen pot will wait another month for a preliminary hearing in Twin Falls. (Twin Falls Times-News)

In an attempt to increase transparency and find financial solvency, the district heeded advisers and prepared a proposed preliminary budget and posted it on the district website late Thursday. (The Scranton Times-Tribune)