first down


Definition of first down

1 : the first of a series of usually four downs in which a football team must net a 10-yard gain to retain possession of the ball
2 : a gain of a total of 10 or more yards within usually four downs giving the team the right to start a new series of downs

Examples of first down in a Sentence

They have first down on the 20-yard line. The pass was completed for a first down.

Recent Examples on the Web

The 21-year-old Edmunds appeared to have Gronkowski stopped just short of a first down in the fourth quarter on Dec. 16 only to have Gronkowski extend his 6-foot-7 frame past the marker. Will Graves, The Seattle Times, "What wall? Steelers rookie Edmunds proving reliable, durable," 26 Dec. 2018 Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce battles Colts defenders to make a first down. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Kansas City Chiefs Are Football’s Golden State Warriors," 18 Jan. 2019 Steratore, the man who gave the Cowboys a first down with an index card earlier this year in Oakland, sent one back in the face of the Cowboys. Clarence E. Hill Jr., star-telegram, "Eagles are ringless no more after first Bowl title in upset of Patriots," 4 Feb. 2018 Jarvis Landry is a tough slot guy who gets first downs., "Fantasy Football Preseason Reports: A Scout’s Take on Every Team," 5 July 2018 Maryland converted 12 first downs to Pennsylvania’s seven. Katherine Fominykh,, "River Hill's Cooper McGeehan hits late field goal to give Maryland rare 9-6 win in Big 33 Classic," 16 June 2018 New England gave up 373 passing yards and three touchdown passes to quarterback Nick Foles, who completed 6-of-7 third-down passes for first downs when targeting Eric Rowe, who started in Butler's place; No. Mark Inabinett,, "Malcolm Butler denies 'ridiculous activities' were behind Super Bowl benching," 6 Feb. 2018 Key plays on the drive included a 17-yard pass to Nelson Agholor, a 10-yard run by LeGarrette Blount and a 14-yard pass to Zach Ertz, each for a first down. Dan Loumena,, "Eagles respond to Patriots' scoring drive with one of their own for 29-19 lead," 4 Feb. 2018 The Raiders went for it and Charlie Smith gained five for a first down. USA TODAY, "AP Was There: Harris' miracle TD gave Steelers playoff win," 14 Jan. 2018

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

1885, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

17 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for first down

The first known use of first down was in 1885

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More Definitions for first down

first down


English Language Learners Definition of first down

American football : the first of a series of usually four downs in which a team must gain 10 yards to keep the ball also : the right to start a new series of downs after a gain of 10 or more yards

More from Merriam-Webster on first down

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with first down

Comments on first down

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to deny responsibility for

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