[kwot-er-ner-ee, kwuh-tur-nuh-ree]
consisting of four.
arranged in fours.
(initial capital letter) Geology. noting or pertaining to the present period of earth history, forming the latter part of the Cenozoic Era, originating about 2 million years ago and including the Recent and Pleistocene Epochs. See table under geologic time.
Metallurgy. (of an alloy) having four principal constituents.
noun, plural quaternaries.
a group of four.
the number four.
(initial capital letter) Geology. the Quaternary Period or System.

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin quaternārius consisting of four, equivalent to quatern(ī) four at a time + -ārius -ary

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World English Dictionary
quaternary (kwəˈtɜːnərɪ)
1.  consisting of fours or by fours
2.  fourth in a series
3.  chem containing or being an atom bound to four other atoms or groups: a quaternary ammonium compound
4.  maths having four variables
n , -naries
5.  the number four or a set of four
[C15: from Latin quaternārius each containing four, from quaternī by fours, distributive of quattuor four]

Quaternary (kwəˈtɜːnərɪ)
1.  of, denoting, or formed in the most recent period of geological time, which succeeded the Tertiary period nearly two million years ago
2.  the Quaternary the Quaternary period or rock system, divided into Pleistocene and Holocene (Recent) epochs or series

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Word Origin & History

c.1430, "consisting of four parts," from L. quaternarius "of four each," from quaterni "four each," from quater "four times," related to quattuor "four" (see four). In geological sense, attested from 1843, proposed 1829 by Fr. geologist Jules Pierre François Stanislas
Desnoyers (1800-1887) as name for "the fourth great epoch of geological time," but since it only comprises the age of man, and the other epochs are many hundred times longer, not all accepted it.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

quaternary qua·ter·nar·y (kwŏt'ər-něr'ē, kwə-tûr'nə-rē)

  1. Consisting of four; in fours.

  2. Relating to an atom bonded to four carbon atoms.

The member of a group or series that is fourth in order.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
quaternary   (kwŏt'ər-něr'ē)  Pronunciation Key 
Noun   Quaternary. The second and last period of the Cenozoic Era, from about 2 million years ago to the present. During this time the continents were situated approximately as they are today, although the geography was different due to fluctuations in sea levels caused by the advance and retreat of ice sheets. Humans first appeared during this period. See Chart at geologic time.

Adjective   Relating to or having a carbon atom that is attached to four other carbon atoms in a molecule. Quaternary pentane, for example, contains five carbon atoms of which one is in the center and the other four are each attached to it.
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