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

Third receiver Brandon Coleman added four catches for 44 yards, three of which resulted in first downs. Jeff Duncan,, "Unsung heroes help Saints bust out the brooms vs. Panthers, advance," 7 Jan. 2018 Jacksonville was forced to punt to New England with more than two minutes remaining in the half after a delay of game penalty wiped out a first down. Jonathan Jones,, "Another Fourth-Quarter Comeback, and the Patriots Are Headed to Super Bowl 52," 21 Jan. 2018 Atlanta had a first down at the Philadelphia 9-yard line with 1:19 to play, but couldn't get the football into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Mark Inabinett,, "Steve Sarkisian not solely to blame for Atlanta Falcons' offensive decline, coach Dan Quinn says," 18 Jan. 2018 Brady had one incompletion, but there was a holding penalty on the Eagles that gave the Patriots a first down. Dan Loumena,, "Patriots take first lead of game, 33-32, on Rob Gronkowski's second TD," 5 Feb. 2018 Julio Jones takes end-around for 13 yards and a first down!!! Mark Inabinett,, "NFL Playoffs: Lower-seeded Titans, Falcons post victories," 7 Jan. 2018 Steratore used an index card to determine whether the Cowboys had a first down late in the game, and ruled in favor of the Cowboys this time around. Drew Davison, star-telegram, "Referee known for Cowboys' 'Dez Catch' and 'Index Card' games calling it a career," 22 June 2018 The Spartans surrendered the ninth fewest first downs at the Football Bowl Subdivision level (FSU 25th) and ranked 18th in third down conversions (FSU 45th). Safid Deen,, "Goal of Willie Taggart’s new Florida State defense: Think less, attack more," 12 Apr. 2018 Teams need to decide the value of a player who moves the chains — of Landry’s 112 catches, 60 went for first downs, the seventh-most in the league. Brad Biggs,, "Jarvis Landry would make Bears better, but trade isn't the right move," 2 Mar. 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

10 Nov 2018

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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

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