A primary metabolite is a kind of metabolite that is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. It usually performs a physiological function in the organism (i.e. an intrinsic function). A primary metabolite is typically present in many organism or cell. It is also referred to as a central metabolite, which has an even more restricted meaning (present in any autonomously growing cell or organism).
Conversely, a secondary metabolite is not directly involved in those processes, but usually has an important ecological function (i.e. a relational function). A secondary metabolite is typically present in a taxonomically restricted set of organisms or cells (Plants, Fungi, Bacteria...).