\ 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

Synonyms: Adverb

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of first in a Sentence

Adjective We sat in the first row. She succeeded on her first attempt. I still remember the first time I saw her. Adverb 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. Noun 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 By the numbers: 11 —Decatur efficiently moved the yardsticks in the first half, converting 11 first downs. al, "Grayson Vermeire scores 3 TDs, Decatur blanks Hazel Green 28-0 for 1st victory," 10 Oct. 2020 The Knights only had two first downs at halftime, and never crossed midfield until late in the third quarter. Chris Hays,, "Duke Walker, Lake Minneola defense roll over East Ridge," 10 Oct. 2020 Santa Fe rolled up 24 first downs to South Houston’s 13. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Struggles on defense force South Houston to absorb 47-20 loss to Santa Fe," 9 Oct. 2020 The Tigers allowed 417 yards and 25 first downs to Virginia last week. USA TODAY, "Bold predictions for Week 6 of the college football season," 9 Oct. 2020 The Wildcats defense was dominant in the first half allowing 60 yards and two first downs. Joseph Halm,, "Big special teams play helps Destrehan top St. James in defensive battle," 8 Oct. 2020 In Week 1, Prescott targeted Los Angeles' No. 1 CB, Jalen Ramsey, nine times en route to eight receptions for 81 yards and four first downs. John Owning, Dallas News, "Film room: 3 bold predictions for Cowboys-Giants, including bounce-back weeks for multiple big names," 8 Oct. 2020 The defense has also been exposed the past couple of weeks, including allowing 444 total yards and 30 first downs Sunday. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, "NFL power rankings: Arizona Cardinals' playoff chances take major hit with Week 4 loss," 7 Oct. 2020 On the team's second offensive series, in coordinator Gary Kubiak's response to an opening possession that ended in a third-down sack, Cook took five touches within six plays, which gained two first downs and a touchdown for the 7-0 lead. Star Tribune, "Spotlight on Vikings' victory: Dalvin Cook," 4 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb The Orange County Register first reported on the collection boxes Sunday, after a regional field director of the California Republican Party posted about them on Twitter. Alexei Koseff,, "California GOP doubles down on unofficial ballot boxes despite state warning they’re illegal," 12 Oct. 2020 The disruption — in two waves that began Sept. 22 — was first reported by cybersecurity journalist Bryan Krebs. Frank Bajak, Star Tribune, "Microsoft attempts takedown of global criminal botnet," 12 Oct. 2020 The most recent spike was first reported in the school newspaper The Trinity Tripod. Michael Hamad,, "Trinity College extends suspension of in-person classes to Friday after number of coronavirus cases doubles," 11 Oct. 2020 The draft was first reported by the Washington Post. Jennifer A Dlouhy,, "Barrett to Tell Senate That Making Policy Isn’t Court’s Role," 11 Oct. 2020 The News first reported earlier this week that Paxton’s pick of outside counsel had continued to investigate Paul’s complaint over the objections of some of the agency’s top employees. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, "Texas AG ends investigation into friend and donor that sparked cries of wrongdoing from top staff," 9 Oct. 2020 The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal, which the two firms later announced in a press release. Alexander Osipovich, WSJ, "Citadel Securities to Buy NYSE Market-Making Unit of Smaller Rival IMC," 8 Oct. 2020 Jake Sherman, a senior writer for Politico, first reported in a tweet this week that Johnson was regularly jetting between his district and Washington on a private plane. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sen. Ron Johnson has been using a private plane owned by his adult children during coronavirus pandemic," 8 Oct. 2020 The Washington Post first reported on the U.S. plan, which aims to shut Iran out of the global financial sector. NBC News, "U.S. to impose new sanctions on Iranian banks," 8 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Bids came from in-person and online, where the auction was broadcast for some 200 buyers (a fair first). Pat Stoetzer,, "Lively livestock auction caps ‘different’ Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair," 8 Aug. 2020 Second baseman Cavan Biggio grabbed it and tried to dive glove-first at the bag, but was edged out by runner Andrew Stevenson. Howard Fendrich, Star Tribune, "4-run 10th for Nats spoils Blue Jays' 'home opener' in DC," 29 July 2020 The Athletic first reported that owners rejected the union proposal. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "MLB rejects union's 114-game proposal, leaving baseball in limbo as other sports gear up for return," 3 June 2020 This comes at a time of many firsts throughout the tropics. Taylor Ward, CNN, "Cyclone Amphan forming in the Bay of Bengal," 15 May 2020 The wave of firsts sworn in to municipal governments across Massachusetts this week won’t necessarily bring a change of course in terms of public policy. Stephanie Ebbert,, "A wave of diversity changes the look of local councils," 7 Jan. 2020 Claudio said that giving Upes a chance to vote at male-only polling stations was one of many referendum firsts. Washington Post, "Regular voting ends as Bougainville considers independence," 4 Dec. 2019 The exhibition also presented two exciting firsts for the Archives of American Art, Kirwin says. Lila Thulin, Smithsonian Magazine, "More Than Forty Years Later, Artists Answer a Still-Relevant Question: ‘What Is Feminist Art?’," 6 Mar. 2020 Call-and-response writing for violins was clarified by having firsts and seconds divided left and right on the stage, as was the norm well into the 20th century. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Wonderfully fresh Beethoven from violinist Midori and the Fort Worth Symphony," 9 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for first

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for first

Last Updated

16 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“First.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for first


How to pronounce first (audio)

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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Comments on first

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