\ ˈfərst How to pronounce first (audio) \

Definition of first

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: preceding all others in time, order, or importance: such as
a : earliest She won first prize. his first girlfriend
b : being the lowest forward gear or speed of a motor vehicle couldn't get the car out of first gear
c : having the highest or most prominent part among a group of similar voices or instruments first violins



Definition of first (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : before another in time, space, or importance
b : in the first place often used with of all
c : for the first time
2 : in preference to something else : sooner



Definition of first (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : one that is number one in a series — see Table of Numbers
2 : something that is first: such as
a : the first occurrence or item of a kind
b : the first forward gear or speed of a motor vehicle
c : the highest or chief voice or instrument of a group
d : an article of commerce of the finest grade
e : the winning or highest place in a competition, examination, or contest
at first
: at the beginning : initially

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Synonyms & Antonyms for first

Synonyms: Adjective

earliest, foremost, headmost, inaugural, initial, leadoff, maiden, original, pioneer, premier, virgin

Synonyms: Adverb

instead, rather

Antonyms: Adjective

final, last, latest, latter, terminal, terminating, ultimate

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Examples of first in a Sentence


We sat in the first row. She succeeded on her first attempt. I still remember the first time I saw her.


I have to pay him first. These problems are not as simple as they first appear. I loved her when I first saw her. This word was first recorded in the 19th century. We'll get started soon, but first we have to make sure everyone is here.


Her solo flight across the Atlantic was a remarkable first. They were responsible for several engineering firsts. I couldn't get the car out of first. take a first in English
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The Thunder traded forward Jerami Grant to the Nuggets for a 2020 first-round pick. Michael Shapiro,, "NBA Rumors: Russell Westbrook Interested in Heat as Thunder Explore Trade," 9 July 2019 When Konerko retired, Alonso focused on Goldschmidt, who is roughly the same size and has managed to win three Gold Gloves despite a bat-first reputation. Tyler Kepner, New York Times, "Pete Alonso’s Endless Enthusiasm Leads to Home Run Derby Win," 8 July 2019 Leonard granted free-agent meetings to the Clippers, Lakers and Toronto, which acquired him last summer with Danny Green from San Antonio for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick. Matt Goul,, "Kawhi Leonard signing with Los Angeles Clippers, who reportedly are trading for Paul George," 6 July 2019 That changed with the gutsy play for George, which will reportedly cost them Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round picks and multiple pick swaps. Ben Golliver, The Denver Post, "Winners and losers from the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George bombshell," 6 July 2019 To acquire Westbrook, ESPN suggests the Suns would have to give up guard Tyler Johnson, forward Kelly Oubre Jr., center Aron Baynes and a 2022 first-round pick. Jeremy Cluff, azcentral, "Russell Westbrook trade rumors: What the Phoenix Suns could offer Oklahoma City Thunder," 3 July 2019 Notably absent from the roster, though, is guard Donte DiVincenzo, the Bucks' 2018 first-round pick. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks summer league roster includes Sterling Brown, D.J. Wilson, but not Donte DiVincenzo," 1 July 2019 New Orleans Pelicans executive David Griffin crafted a dream return featuring multiple prospects, three first-round picks and future pick swap rights to boot. Ben Golliver,, "2019 NBA mock draft: How will Pelicans build around Zion Williamson?," 18 June 2019 An Austrian pig farmer trying to broker a trade agreement with China runs face-first into hopeless interdepartmental gridlock. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Tin-Eared Bureaucrats and Frayed Connections," 14 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

When Harold Jones first bought his home in Canarsie in 1991, he was struck most by the tall trees lining the street. Sophie Kasakove, The New Republic, "New York’s Invisible Climate Migrants," 11 July 2019 Zhou Qi paced China with 14 points and 17 rebounds Former Bucks first-round pick Yi Jianlian is on China's roster but did not enter the game. Paul Drzewiecki, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks 84, China 67: Big second half helps overcome lethargic start," 11 July 2019 Watson/IndyStar) After sinking the first first throw, the veteran forward missed the second and Wilson grabbed the rebound. Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Fever falter down the stretch, lose close game to Aces," 10 July 2019 But the cockatoo's dance routine was pretty simple when Patel first studied him - mostly just some head bobbing and feet lifting. Author: Jason Bittel, Anchorage Daily News, "Snowball the cockatoo taught himself 14 dance moves, scientists say," 9 July 2019 In Florida, Mayan Guatemalans first settled in Indiantown, a village northwest of Palm Beach’s luxurious estates, in the 1980s, to toil in vegetable fields and citrus groves after fleeing a counterinsurgency campaign by the Guatemalan military. Miriam Jordan, New York Times, "Schools Scramble to Handle Thousands of New Migrant Families," 9 July 2019 Microsoft Research first documented these prototype controllers back in October, and now Microsoft has even patented the idea. Tom Warren, The Verge, "Microsoft’s prototype Xbox controllers for phones look ideal for xCloud," 9 July 2019 Large numbers of Central Americans first began to arrive in the U.S. in the 1980s – in many cases fleeing U.S.-backed brutality. Anthony W. Fontes, The Conversation, "The long, bipartisan history of dealing with immigrants harshly," 9 July 2019 According to Alberta, Trump first noticed AOC during her primary run against incumbent Joe Crowley., "Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez leans into Trump’s comparision of her to Evita, gets criticized for it," 9 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Some key takeaways from Trump’s whirlwind trip to Japan, South Korea and the Demilitarized Zone: Fondness for firstsThere’s nothing Trump seems to like more than to say he’s made history or done what no president has done before. Josh Lederman, NBC News, "'Nobody expected this moment' — the top takeaways from Trump's trip to Asia," 1 July 2019 Jerry Rice’s arrival in 1985 as a member of the 49ers was a series of firsts. Peter Hartlaub,, "See Jerry Rice’s first photos as a 49er (taken after his first time on a plane)," 27 June 2019 And in downtown Seoul, 100,000 South Koreans gathered at a projection screen to watch clips of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins’ unprecedented mission, culminating with humanity’s firsts steps on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. Chabeli Herrera,, "Moon maps in the Netherlands and American flags in Japan? How Apollo 11 dazzled the world," 23 June 2019 Getty Images Looking back on beauty firsts feels nostalgic. Maya Allen, Marie Claire, "How to Make Your Bikini Wax Less Painful, According to Experts," 1 Apr. 2019 Image: Huawei At IFA today, Huawei announced its newest system-on-a-chip, the Kirin 980, which boasts a number of world firsts. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Huawei promises its 7nm Kirin 980 processor will destroy the Snapdragon 845," 31 Aug. 2018 Although attendance was down, the event achieved a lot of firsts under Russell’s leadership, expanding the event south to Tijuana and up to North County’s startup hub. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Startup San Diego loses its only paid employee to Bay Area," 17 June 2019 The victory punctuated a season of firsts for the NBA's only Canadian team. Christina Maxouris, CNN, "Toronto is about to kick off a massive celebration honoring the Raptors' first-ever NBA title," 17 June 2019 Given those limits around the league, the Pelicans did well to extract three firsts, including one top-five pick, along with three young players who immediately make New Orleans the most talented young team in the league. Andrew Sharp,, "Anthony Davis Trade Winners and Losers: The Lakers Jackpot, Pelicans Haul and Celtics Disaster," 16 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'first.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of first


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for first

Adjective, Adverb, and Noun

Middle English, from Old English fyrst; akin to Old High German furist first, Old English faran to go — more at fare

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Statistics for first

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for first

The first known use of first was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for first



English Language Learners Definition of first

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: coming before all others in time, order, or importance
used to refer to the lowest forward gear or speed of a vehicle
: having or playing the main part in a group of instruments



English Language Learners Definition of first (Entry 2 of 3)

: before any other in time, order, or importance
: for the first time
: before doing other things



English Language Learners Definition of first (Entry 3 of 3)

: an occurrence, achievement, etc., that happens or exists before any other of that kind
: the position of the winner in a competition or contest
: the lowest forward gear or speed of a car, truck, etc.


\ ˈfərst How to pronounce first (audio) \

Kids Definition of first

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: coming before all others in time, order, or importance first prize first base



Kids Definition of first (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : before any other I reached the goal first.
2 : for the first time We first met at a party.



Kids Definition of first (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : number one in a series
2 : something or someone that comes before all others Her perfect score was a first for the school.
3 : the winning place in a competition
at first
: in the beginning I hated dance lessons at first.

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More from Merriam-Webster on first

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with first

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for first

Spanish Central: Translation of first

Nglish: Translation of first for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of first for Arabic Speakers

Comments on first

What made you want to look up first? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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