first

1 of 3

adjective

: 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

first

2 of 3

adverb

1
a
: 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 entry 2

first

3 of 3

noun

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
3
Phrases
at first
: at the beginning : initially

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Their first appearance came in the second season of the series’ first run in the ’60s. Cameron K McEwan, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 May 2024 The latter category is being awarded for the first time in five years. Paul Grein, Billboard, 13 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for first 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'first.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Adverb

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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near first

Cite this Entry

“First.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/first. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

first

1 of 3 adjective
1
: being number one in a series see number
2
: coming before all others in time, order, or importance: as
a
: being the earliest
b
: being the lowest forward gear or speed of a motor vehicle
c
: having or playing the principal part of a group of instruments
first oboe

first

2 of 3 adverb
1
a
: before any other in time, space, or importance
b
: for the first time
2
: rather than something else
surrender? We will die first

first

3 of 3 noun
1
: one that is number one in a series see number
2
a
: the first forward gear or speed of a motor vehicle
b
: the winning place in a competition or contest
3

More from Merriam-Webster on first

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!