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

While an interception ends a possession, getting sacked makes losing the ball without another first down (or touchdown) almost certain—an 81.5% fail rate, according to Stats LLC. Michael Salfino, WSJ, "Sacks Are Keeping the Packers Down," 30 Nov. 2018 Right after Grant slid over Ehlinger’s back, the Texas QB rose out of his crouch and scrambled 17 yards for a first down to help sustain the Longhorns’ second touchdown drive. Brett Martel, The Seattle Times, "Georgia done in by unusual rash of miscues in Sugar Bowl," 1 Jan. 2019 Of his 224 career runs, 42% have produced a first down or touchdown. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "You Can’t Stop Blake Bortles, You Can Only Hope to Contain Him," 13 Sep. 2018 Tua Tagovailoa had miraculous scramble on third-and-7 for a first down to get the Alabama drive started. Erick Smith, USA TODAY, "Alabama beats Georgia in overtime of College Football Playoff championship game," 8 Jan. 2018 The rollercoaster tilt included five lead changes, 834 total yards, and 49 first downs. Seattle Times Sports Staff, The Seattle Times, "What the national media are saying about the Seahawks’ 33-31 defeat to the Rams, and that controversial final timeout," 8 Oct. 2018 Clement had five third-down receptions in the postseason for 91 yards and four first downs. Paul Domowitch,, "Corey Clement, one year after his meteoric rise, is ready to grow his role with Eagles," 24 May 2018 And when Georgia smothered the Crimson Tide in the first half, holding Bama to 94 total yards and four first downs on 24 plays, the inadequacies seemed to have been exposed. George Schroeder, USA TODAY, "Nick Saban's bold move — turn to Tua Tagovailoa — pays off," 9 Jan. 2018 Seattle came out running in that game, per usual, running on nine of 13 plays on a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game and take a 7-0 lead, though the touchdown came on a 10-yard pass to Jaron Brown on first down. Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times, "Seahawks mailbag: Debating Seattle’s late-game offensive philosophy," 4 Feb. 2019

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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Statistics for first down

Last Updated

14 Apr 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

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with first down

Comments on first down

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to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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