\ ˈfərst \

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

None of the Vikings’ four first-half drives got past midfield as a result. Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times, "The Final Word: Bob Condotta examines what worked in the Seahawks’ win vs. the Vikings," 11 Dec. 2018 In the first half of the year, corporate chiefs executed 11 deals involving a European company, each with a value of more than $10 billion—seven in the first quarter and four in the second, according to Dealogic. Ben Dummett, WSJ, "European M&A Loses Pace With Drop in Mega Deals," 30 Sep. 2018 Phoenix had 12 first-half turnovers against the Kings and five of those came on entry passes, leading some to believe that Suns guards Shaq Harrison and Davon Reed were doing a poor job of getting Ayton the ball. Scott Bordow, azcentral, "NBA Summer League is ideal learning ground for Suns rookie Deandre Ayton," 7 July 2018 However, after securing a place in the last 16 of the World Cup after just two games; having scored eight goals and conceded just once from open play, alongside witnessing two first halves of scintillating football, my motivation is a lot clearer., "90min World Cup Fan Diaries: England's Start Shows Why Fans Religiously Follow Three Lions," 25 June 2018 Kane completed a hat-trick that included two first-half penalties, defender John Stones helped himself to two, and Jesse Lingard reeled off a fine strike from outside the area. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "England messed up by scoring too many goals vs. Panama," 24 June 2018 Panama rallied with a late first-half goal to tie the U.S. at home in March 2017, and the Americans won 4-0 in Florida last October. Ronald Blum,, "What do Costa Rica, Panama early exits say about U.S. soccer?," 24 June 2018 Senior Abbey Lippold helped get the Warhawks off to a hot start against USM, scoring two goals en route to a 3-0 first-half lead. Curt Hogg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Arrowhead Red girls lacrosse keeps remarkable run of state titles intact," 11 June 2018 Culver’s Michael Bocker scored four first-half goals, propelling his Eagles to an 11-8 lead at halftime. Ryan Gregory, Indianapolis Star, "Boys lacrosse: HSE completes comeback, beats Culver for state title," 2 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Acer first showed off the Predator Triton 900 at IFA 2018, but kept it under glass. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Acer's swivel-display Predator Triton 900 will include Nvidia's mobile RTX graphics," 6 Jan. 2019 That suspected Planet Nine was first proposed in 2016, and plenty of astronomers have spent the last few years hunting for it. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Find the Most Distant Solar System Object Yet," 17 Dec. 2018 Mary Poppins first appeared in the pages of Australian author P.L. Travers's eight-book series of the same name, published in 1934. Rose Minutaglio, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Surprising Real-Life Inspiration for Mary Poppins," 16 Nov. 2018 The Parker Probe, named after astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who in the mid-1950s first developed a theory of solar winds, is expected to come within 3.8 million miles. Marco Santana,, "Parker Solar Probe preview postponed due to tubing leak, NASA says," 13 July 2018 Martha Wells’ first Murderbot novella, All Systems Red, came out last year, and was a huge hit — eventually earning the 2018 Nebula and Hugo Awards for its category. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Our favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 According to Glamour, Maria first came up with the idea for MIGA Swimwear while pursuing a master's degree at famed UK fashion university, Central Saint Martins. Amira Rasool, Teen Vogue, "This Swimwear Line Was Made Specifically for People With Disfigurements," 30 Nov. 2018 The newest generation of KarJenner babies were born over the course of just four months, with Chicago coming first on January 15, followed quickly by Stormi on February 1, and finally True on April 12. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Kendall Jenner Appears Thankful to Be the Only Kardashian-Jenner Without a Baby," 24 Nov. 2018 Dumas first came across the island via the photography of Yoshihiko Ueda, and has been spellbound ever since. Chioma Nnadi, Vogue, "Can the New Hermès Apple Watch Actually Help You Unplug?," 19 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Last week's midterm elections resulted in so many firsts for women in this country. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "I'm Framing This Photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the New Squad of Congresswomen Immediately," 13 Nov. 2018 The announcement marked a series of firsts for Simmons, publisher 2K, and sports video games. Nick Tricome,, "Sixers' Ben Simmons will be on NBA 2K19 cover … in Australia," 5 July 2018 Yesterday in PyeongChang saw firsts for two other countries as well. Jon Tayler,, "PyeongChang Olympics Medal Count: Norway Widens Lead on Germany; Dutch Gaining in Golds," 16 Feb. 2018 Meghan Markle has marked a lot of firsts in the past few days. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Arrives To Her First Solo Event in Givenchy," 25 Sep. 2018 SpaceX already has a long list of firsts, with its sights ultimately set on Mars. Christopher Weber, The Seattle Times, "1st private moon flight passenger to invite creative guests," 17 Sep. 2018 And then there’s video, the area where Fujifilm claims it has achieved a number of firsts. Chris Welch, The Verge, "Fujifilm’s new X-T3 mirrorless camera upgrades everything that matters most," 6 Sep. 2018 There’s been a lot of firsts in this outbreak response, things that have never been done before. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Why the Ebola outbreak in DRC is so difficult to contain," 2 Dec. 2018 And one of the greatest space programs in human history will add one more accomplishment to a very long list of firsts. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Voyager 2 Is Getting Close to Interstellar Space," 5 Oct. 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

12 Jan 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 2)

: 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 2)

: before any other in time, order, or importance

: for the first time

: before doing other things


\ ˈfərst \

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).


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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