Definition of first in English:

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Pronunciation: /fəːst/

ordinal number

1Coming before all others in time or order; earliest; 1st: his first wife the first of five daughters many valuable drugs have been recognized first as poisons
More example sentences
  • The set features songs from their first five albums when they were at the height of their creative powers.
  • Officers were able to use the new order on the first day it was implemented.
  • Aside from switching the order of the first question, this year was no exception.
earliest, initial, opening, introductory, original
fundamental, basic, rudimentary, primary, beginning, elemental, underlying, basal, foundation;
key, cardinal, central, chief, vital, essential
1.1Never previously done or occurring: her first day at school
More example sentences
  • This is claimed to be the first exhibition ever to show how the self-portrait developed.
  • The BBC is set to launch its first ever sports news programme dedicated to children.
  • The display of works on paper is the first ever loan exhibition organised by Kettle's Yard.
1.2Coming or encountered next after a specified or implied time, event, etc. the first house I came to
More example sentences
  • The first problem McCall encountered on his return was a severely depleted player roll.
  • The first action in the event of a fire is to put on the gas mask each crewman is issued.
  • It was the first event in the year so it was a really nice chance for people to catch up.
1.3Before doing something else specified or implied: Do you mind if I take a shower first?
More example sentences
  • We had to go to Ballina to meet the Bishop first and then back to Bangor again for the marriage.
  • Would you like me to make them now, or would your Lordship prefer to hear from Mr K. first?
before anything else, first and foremost, firstly, in the first place;
without further ado, now
1.4For the first time: she first picked up a guitar out of sheer boredom
More example sentences
  • I can remember when this story first emerged.
  • One set of accounts suggests that the story first surfaced in Germany in the 1930s.
1.5 informal The first occurrence of something notable: we travelled by air, a first for both of us
More example sentences
  • Less well known has been his quiet role as vice chairman of Space Adventures, which includes some notable firsts.
  • Bradford has scored a couple of notable firsts, thanks to the efforts of the Bradford Metropolitan Recreation Department, by launching two projects to keep the citizens of Bradford slim and trim.
  • York City's 4-1 FA Cup triumph over Radcliffe Borough last Sunday marked a number of notable firsts for the Minstermen.
novelty, new experience, first experience, first occurrence, unusual event
informal a turn-up for the books
1.6The first in a sequence of a vehicle’s gears: he stuck the car in first and revved
More example sentences
  • Pull both together for neutral and with a foot on the brake you select first.
1.7 Baseball First base: he made it all the way home from first
1.8chiefly British The first form of a school or college.
Example sentences
  • It was in 1988, my first year in the first grade, and the Blacks used to come on a full tour.
  • My parents sent me to sleep away schools since the time I was in first grade.
  • Leah was six and also in first grade, but her gift was in mathematics, and she was at a fifth grade level.
2Foremost in position, rank, or importance: the doctor’s first duty is to respect this right a first prize of £250 career women who put work first football must come first
More example sentences
  • The quality of life has got to come first above creating ugly urban sprawl.
  • At the end of the day, everybody's got family and they do have to come first.
  • My feeling about this statement has always been that it's a shame, but people come first.
foremost, principal, highest, greatest, paramount, top, topmost, utmost, uppermost, prime, chief, leading, main, major;
pre-eminent, overriding, outstanding, supreme, premier, predominant, prevailing, most important, of greatest importance, of prime importance;
vital, key, essential, crucial, central, core, focal, pivotal, dominant;
ruling, head
informal number-one
top, best, prime, premier, superlative;
winner's, winning, champion
2.1Firstly; in the first place (used to introduce a main point or reason): first, it is wrong that the victims should have no remedy
2.2In preference; rather (used when strongly rejecting a suggestion or possibility): she longed to go abroad, but not at this man’s expense—she’d die first!
in preference, more willingly, sooner, rather
2.3The first finisher or position in a race or competition.
Example sentences
  • He's also timed it so that he's going out as the first finishers in the race are coming in.
  • The three disciplines are run back-to-back and the winner is the first athlete to finish.
  • It was so refreshing to hear Latka explain how he had raced from 28th to first and won.
2.4 [in titles] Having precedence over all others of a similar kind: First Lord of the Admiralty
2.5British A place in the top grade in an examination, especially that for a degree: chaps with firsts from Oxbridge
2.6British A person who has received the top grade in an examination for a degree.
2.7 (the firsts) The best or main team of a sports club: he was asked to play for the firsts
More example sentences
  • David Duxbury's side was cheered on by a good crowd which included most of the firsts from both clubs.
  • Next up is a trip to Emley Moor for the firsts while the second team entertain Dudley Hill Eagles at home.
  • It was the firsts that were so inspiring to watch, after all; that was where the future representatives of our country would be playing and it was something we could always strive to achieve; to play for our school first team.
2.8 (firsts) Goods of the best quality: factory firsts, seconds, and discontinued styles
3With a specified part or person in a leading position: the car plunged nose first into the river
More example sentences
  • As soon as I said that a dark figure crashed into the window and fell head first on the floor.
  • Down she fell head first onto the floor.
  • He opened the door to be greeted by Diana falling head first to the ground.
4 [often with infinitive] The most pressing, likely, or suitable: his first problem is where to live he is the first to admit he was not the best of patients
More example sentences
  • Inbound tourist operators are the first to admit their jobs are the cream of the crop.
  • I'd be the first to admit that networking has been the key to my success in any job or role I've ever had.
  • Fiona is the first to admit that she is impatient when it comes to her home.
5 Music Performing the highest or chief of two or more parts for the same instrument or voice: the first violins
More example sentences
  • I looked up at one point in the middle of the second act, to see something strange going on in the first violins.
  • Gradually a permanent nucleus was formed comprising the essential elements of an Orchestra - firsts and seconds, alto, tenor and bass parts, guitar, bayan, piano and percussion.



at first

At the beginning; in the initial stage or stages: at first Hugo tried to be patient
More example sentences
  • It can be a bit daunting at first but once they get started and have a go they really enjoy it and learn quickly.
  • He seemed a bit nervous at first but soon settled and gave his usual comic performance.
  • You do have to be a bit of a contortionist at first to engage gear, but it is a sportsbike after all.
at first, to begin with, at the beginning/start, first of all, at the outset, initially

at first glance


at first hand


at first instance


at first sight

see sight.

(the) first among equals

see equal.

first blood

see blood.

first come, first served

Used to indicate that people will be dealt with strictly in the order in which they arrive or apply: tickets are available on a first come, first served basis
More example sentences
  • Season ticket holders who wish to sit in this stand must first get a free transfer ticket from the ticket office at least two days before the game and it is strictly first come, first served.
  • Postcards can't be reserved or paid for in advance, they are allocated on a strictly first come, first served basis on the sale days only.
  • And how are the lists ordered: on the basis of first come, first served?

first and foremost

Most importantly; more than anything else: he considered himself first and foremost a writer
More example sentences
  • Since then he has never looked back although he does consider himself to be a Carlow man first and foremost.
  • Like everything else Shaker, things had, first and foremost, to be practical.
  • Cathedrals are, first and foremost, places of worship and are recognised as places of great beauty.

first and last

Fundamentally; on the whole: museums are first and last about curatorship
More example sentences
  • Feminism's a socialist movement, first and last.
  • I am, first and last and always, concerned about the welfare of people, all kinds of people.
  • There is little point in wallowing in the brilliance of Bacon if you don't recognise him as a moralist first and last.

first of all

Before doing anything else: first of all, let me ask you something
More example sentences
  • Her Honour Justice Branson first of all basically agrees with his Honour Justice Wilcox.
  • I should ask first of all if he wishes to say anything in response to those submissions?
  • What was the principal difficulty there about delay, first of all in the Sergeant's case?
11.1Most importantly: German unity depends first of all on the German people
More example sentences
  • The advancement of science depends, first of all, on the free flow of information.
  • And the importance of history is first of all it tells you the way the world was.
  • Really, to keep them in optimum state, it is important that they be maintained first of all.

first off

Pronunciation: /ˈfəːst ˌɒf/
informal, chiefly North American As a first point; firstly: first off, I owe you a heck of an apology
More example sentences
  • Well, first off, we've got to talk about a couple of different things.
  • They were dying to know what it was going to look like, first off.
  • Well, first off, you went and bought the book which is a first step.

first past the post

Pronunciation: /fəːst pɑːst ðə ˈpəʊst/
(Of a contestant, especially a horse) winning a race by being the first to reach the finishing line: Aliysa was first past the post in the 1989 Oaks
More example sentences
  • Esha Ness, ridden by John White and trained by Jenny Pitman, was the first past the post but the race was later declared void.
  • Local Claremorris man Finbar Donnellan also had a share in a horse that was first past the post in one of Wednesday's races.
  • Boxed in on the final corner by his rivals, he had to pull out all the stops up Cheltenham's notoriously unforgiving hill to ensure that he was first past the post.
[attributive] British 13.1 Denoting an electoral system in which a candidate or party is selected by achievement of a simple majority: our first-past-the-post electoral system
More example sentences
  • Secondly, making an electoral breakthrough in a first past the post electoral system remains tough.
  • The first past the post system always unfairly rewards the largest parties, but the results become particularly arbitrary when their share of the vote is relatively small.
  • The first past the post system won't deliver that.

first thing

Early in the morning; before anything else: I have to meet Josh first thing tomorrow
More example sentences
  • They had the chance to do that either on Friday night or first thing in the morning before we were to set out.
  • He gets fed first thing in the morning before I go to work and again when I get home.
  • I know that the first thing in the morning I'll be wandering into work on my day off to find it.

first things first

Important matters should be dealt with before other things: I suggest we get our priorities right—first things first
More example sentences
  • Let's deal with first things first, and the thing that's getting the most attention is the headline grabber.
  • We'll talk a lot about the book and your extraordinary story, but let's first deal with first things first.
  • A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing which things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.

first up

British First of all.
Example sentences
  • Can I just say first up that as far as the state of play in journalism is concerned, I actually think things aren't so bad.
  • That means that this motion will in fact be debated first up.
  • So first up, what kind of show is he bringing down under?
Australian /NZ 16.1 At the first attempt.
Example sentences
  • A goal to midfielder Heather Garriock in the first half proved the difference as the team set about playing with a bit more flair than in their stodgy first up loss to the Brazilians.
  • But this year both have hit the ground first up with viewers, unusual for Seven and a worry for Nine if it continues.
  • You would not have to undergo the painful trial and error process of learning how to shave, one of your old men could show you the correct way first up.

from the (very) first

From the beginning: he should have realized it from the first
More example sentences
  • It is true to say that, from the first, the country's attitude to Europe has been ambivalent.
  • No wonder I'd felt connected to Antonio from the very first.
  • Siegfried, his head grader driver, ran one crew while Steve, who'd been with him from the very first, oversaw the other.
the beginning, the very beginning, the start, the outset, the commencement
informal the word go, square one, the off

from first to last

From beginning to end; throughout: it’s a fine performance that commands attention from first to last
More example sentences
  • By contrast, Thomas Otway's Venice Preserved commands our aesthetic and political attention from first to last.
  • Clyde were totally dominant from first to last in a game Celtic fans must have been begging to end.
  • Playing three groups ahead of the leaders and experiencing the same difficult conditions, Olazabal was quite something, his putting breathtaking from first to last.

in the first place

As the first consideration or point: political reality was not quite that simple—in the first place, divisions existed within the parties
More example sentences
  • None of the new measures seem to consider addressing the main cause of the problem in the first place.
  • He refers to one recent study which considers the reasons why bloggers blog in the first place.
  • To answer this we must consider whether Doris's acceptance is valid in the first place.
19.1At the beginning; to begin with: I should have told you in the first place
More example sentences
  • What makes me feel so really stupid is how I actually managed to begin smoking in the first place.
  • By the way, why do you feel the need to mention the fact that you carry a knife in the first place?
  • Sadly, it also gave me the chance to remember why we had lost touch in the first place.

of the first order (or magnitude)

Excellent or considerable of its kind: it is a media event of the first order
More example sentences
  • However, the overall campaign was a disaster of the first order.
  • It was a disaster of the first order, but Daun was still wary of the ever-aggressive Frederick, with reason.
  • Sarris calls the film ‘a masterpiece of the first order.’
of the utmost importance, of the greatest significance, very important, of importance, of significance, of note, of great moment, of great consequence

of the first water

see water.


Old English fyr(e)st; of Germanic origin, related to Old Norse fyrstr and German Fürst 'prince', from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit prathama, Latin primus, and Greek prōtos.

  • The Old English word first goes back to an ancient root which is shared by Latin primus (as in prime), and Greek prōtos (as in protein (mid 19th century) and prototype (mid 16th century)). The expression first come, first served goes back to the Middle Ages and is found in the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer. It was originally used in the context of milling, when a mill would serve the whole community. The first person to bring their corn to the mill would be the first person to have it ground. The first among equals is the member of a group that has the highest status. It is a translation of the Latin phrase primus inter pares, which was used as a title by Roman emperors. Many will know it today as the title of a Jeffrey Archer novel published in 1984. In Scotland to first-foot (early 19th century) is to be the first person to cross the threshold of a house in the New Year. Traditionally, it is thought lucky for that person to be a dark-haired man.

Words that rhyme with first

accursed, burst, curst, erst, headfirst, Hurst, thirst, under-rehearsed, unrehearsed, unversed, verst, worst, wurst

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: first

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