The book is not a Sacco-Vanzetti encyclopedia. I touch only in passing on some important subjects that I considered secondary to the book’s main goals. I know that the book could, as Barbara Tuchman said of The Proud Tower, “be written all over again under the same title with entirely other subject matter.”

(Source: Susan Tejada: In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. x.)

I am not sure what is the meaning of the phrase "secondary to" in my clause. In the case that it has the standard meaning – not so importatnt, not so relevant – the sentence niggles me a little. The book is supposed not to be encyclopedia and the author focuses only on the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti and importatnt subjects are mentioned only briefly. But the reason for their being mentioned should stem from their importance to the book's main goals so the usage of "secondary" seems to be odd to me.

  • It's as opposed to "primary", I think. – M.A.R. Feb 26 '16 at 12:25

Secondary to means not of primary or main concern.

Something that is secondary in importance does not mean that it is not important, it can still be very important, but something else (primary) is more relevant for the current discussion.

For example

In bad weather, having good tires is of secondary importance to driving slowly

meaning that it is more important to drive slowly than to have good tires even though having good tires is also very important.

In your passage, the author is only "touching" on some subjects she considers secondary since she probably thinks they are also relevant or important, but does not want to distract the reader away from the main point.

Primary, secondary, tertiary can be used to express ordering.


@Peter's answer is correct in OP's situation. I just want to point out another use.

As a medical provider, we use this term a lot in documentations. It means "caused by".

For example:



"secondary to" means "resulting from", "characterized by" or "relating to" that is primary...

"due to" means "caused by" or "because of"...

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