\ 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

Watts, 33, faces three first-degree murder charges, two counts of murdering a child under 12, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. Kathleen Foody, Fox News, "Man admits wife's murder, blames her for daughters' deaths," 21 Aug. 2018 But Boedecker faces charges stemming from an argument with her husband about his fidelity, according to authorities: third-degree domestic assault, armed criminal action and first-degree property damage. Glenn E. Rice, kansascity, "Grandma turns playhouse into memorial for granddaughters found dead in Clay County," 6 July 2018 Mark Hambrick was indicted in February for first-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to juveniles. Heather Nolan,, "Arraignment again delayed for man charged with killing 18-month old daughter," 24 May 2018 Japan’s new emperor pledged to be a symbol of peace and national unity in his first public remarks after taking the throne. Peter Landers, WSJ, "Japan’s New Emperor Ascends to Chrysanthemum Throne After Father Abdicates," 30 Apr. 2019 The energy in the room was off the charts from the first song! Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "George W. Bush's Daughter Barbara Had a Second Wedding at Her Family's Ranch This Weekend," 15 Apr. 2019 Thank you, Rihanna, for blessing us with more Body Lava on the first day of spring. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "Fenty Beauty Restocks Body Lava in New Limited-Edition Shades," 20 Mar. 2019 Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera left after being hit on the right hand by a pitch from Sanchez to begin the sixth. Ian Harrison, The Seattle Times, "Sanchez, Blue Jays pitch 2nd shutout in row, top Tigers 3-0," 30 Mar. 2019 The Mariners’ 2017 first-round pick, White is Baseball America’s No. 100 overall prospect going into 2019. Ryan Divish, The Seattle Times, "Names to watch: Breaking down the Mariners’ Top 15 prospects for 2019," 27 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Harington and Leslie first met in 2012 on the set of Game of Thrones, and their professional relationship soon turned into a romance. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kit Harington Wants to Be a Dad After Game of Thrones," 12 Apr. 2019 Harry first met Daphne back in 2015, when the pair struck up an immediate friendship during one of his visits to Australia. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Daphne Dunne, Prince Harry's 99-Year-Old Australian BFF, Has Died," 2 Apr. 2019 Google first announced its new call-screening feature at its big annual event, a feature where a friendly robot will pick up the phone for you and politely ask whoever is calling what gives them the nerve to try to reach you on the phone. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Finally, the Robots Are Turning Phone Calls Into Text Chats," 3 Dec. 2018 Last month, Kardashian had her real hair dyed an icy platinum blonde by Tracey Cunningham and cut twice (first by Jen Atkin, then Fitzsimons took a few more inches off to be just above shoulder length). Wendy Sy, Allure, "Khloé Kardashian Tries Big, Curly Blonde Hair on for Size at Diana Ross's 75th Birthday Party," 27 Mar. 2019 Patriotism means America first, Mr. Whitehead says. Doug Struck, The Christian Science Monitor, "As Americans celebrate Independence Day, what does it mean to be a patriot?," 2 July 2018 When Giovanni Santiago first took the 1,800-mile journey from his hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, to Cincinnati in 2015, his family was on his mind. Shelby Dermer,, "Hughes' Santiago on making Puerto Rico's team: 'It's a blessing to play for your country'," 6 June 2018 Irish lawmaker James Lawless first put forward a Social Media Transparency Bill in December 2017, with the aim to reduce the risk of foreign actors influencing upcoming campaigns. Kara Fox, CNN, "The young Americans trying to stop Ireland from voting Yes to abortion," 23 May 2018 Some conservatives have pointed to Kethledge as a potential justice in the mold of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee last year. Catherine Lucey, Ken Thomas, Time, "Vice President Mike Pence Met With Supreme Court Contenders," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Daily Reading and Videos The Winter Games saw many firsts and left lasting impressions on our staff. Dania Haughton,, "Sunday Olympic Daily Digest: All the Medals Have Been Handed Out," 25 Feb. 2018 Think of all the many firsts that are still out there. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Model Halima Aden Is Launching Her Own Collection of 27 Headscarves With Modansia," 19 Mar. 2019 Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes both had a pretty exciting night on Sunday filled with a lot of firsts. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Camila Cabello Tells Shawn Mendes “I’ll Love You Forever” In Emotional Post-Grammys Instagram," 12 Feb. 2019 Houston Methodist Hospital is about to close operating rooms that were the site of some of the world’s firsts in heart surgery. Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, "Historic Houston ORs closing at Methodist," 8 July 2018 Other firsts were Oceania Cruises' Riviera for midsize, Viking Sea for small to midsize and Silversea Cruises' Silver Galapagos for small ships. Phil Marty,, "Backpack across Michigan's Isle Royale, get a taste of Southeast Asia and more," 8 Mar. 2018 Eric McCandlessGetty Images The Bachelor season 23 had a bunch of firsts. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Is Colton Underwood Engaged After 'The Bachelor' Finale?," 4 Mar. 2019 Soto got two firsts and 89 points, and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler was next with one first and 28 points. Jim Armstrong, The Seattle Times, "Acuna honored to be named National League Rookie of the Year," 13 Nov. 2018 There are two world premieres, three American firsts and contributions from artists including the pianist Simon Trpceski, the tenor Nicholas Phan and the Kronos Quartet. David Allen, New York Times, "15 Classical Music Festivals to See This Summer," 17 May 2018

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

18 May 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).


using a distributed computer network

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