false start


Definition of false start 

1 : a premature start (as of a race or football play)

2 : an unsuccessful attempt to begin something (such as a career)

Examples of false start in a Sentence

If someone makes a false start, the race is immediately stopped and the runners have to start again. After several false starts, the researchers were finally able to identify the virus causing the epidemic.

Recent Examples on the Web

But after a false start penalty pushed his attempt back, Andy Pappanastos missed his 40-yard try wide left. Erick Smith, USA TODAY, "Alabama beats Georgia in overtime of College Football Playoff championship game," 8 Jan. 2018 The 10th horse made multiple exploratory false starts. Dwight Garner, New York Times, "The Palio di Siena: A Survivor’s Tale," 16 Apr. 2018 And then, abruptly, both ceremonies are over—the labor was a false start, and the simmering tensions in the Waterford household finally boil over. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Episode 10 Is Its Most Horrifying Yet," 20 June 2018 But after a rare false start by one of their best swimmers, their 200-yard freestyle team was disqualified, opening the door for Austin Westlake to claim the championship. Jason Mcdaniel, Houston Chronicle, "Championship swim coach retires after nearly 3 decades at Kingwood," 9 June 2018 Some projects are in the early stages, some have suffered false starts, and some have been long-promised but never delivered. James Vaznis, BostonGlobe.com, "Next Boston superintendent will face a massive to-do list," 27 June 2018 While the first working escalator made its public debut as an attraction, this present-day convenience was a product of false starts, imaginative thinking, and a changing industrial world. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "Movin' On Up: The Curious Birth and Rapid Rise of the Escalator," 6 Apr. 2016 After creating their profile, and what Brooks and Ewerdt describe as two years of ups, downs and false starts, a woman named Cassandra chose them, and just a month later, in March of 2012, Miles was born. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "This two-dad family isn't short on support. Here's how they're making sure other LGBT families feel supported as well.," 14 June 2018 After nearly three years of unsuccessful singles and false starts, Joyride is finally on its way. Peter Helman, Billboard, "Tinashe Enlists Ty Dolla $ign and French Montana for New 'Me So Bad' Video: Watch," 30 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'false start.' 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 false start

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

5 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for false start

The first known use of false start was in 1815

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More Definitions for false start

false start


English Language Learners Definition of false start

: the mistake of starting too soon in a race

: an unsuccessful attempt to begin something (such as a career or a project)

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Comments on false start

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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