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

Alabama couldn’t get a first down after a 15-yard face mask flag on tight end Miller Forristall at South Carolina on a possession that ended with a missed 37-yard field goal. Michael Casagrande |, al, "What’s behind Alabama’s penalty problem," 17 Sep. 2019 Stafford drilled a pass into the gut of Marvin Jones Jr., who picked up the first down. Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press, "Yes, Detroit Lions' performance was ugly. But the L.A. Chargers were uglier," 15 Sep. 2019 Higgins is a favorite target of Mayfield when the QB needs a first down. Terry Pluto,, "Cleveland Browns: Can they avoid being sucked into New York drama?," 15 Sep. 2019 As NFL Network and The Athletic reported, Carr talked Gruden out of a running play on third-and-8 at the two-minute warning in favor of a pass play to get the first down and end the game. Jerry Mcdonald, The Mercury News, "Five keys for the Raiders against AFC West powerhouse Kansas City," 14 Sep. 2019 That would have given a first down to the Rams on the New Orleans 1 — likely leading to a touchdown rather than a field goal. Los Angeles Times, "Column: How Saints fans rallied after losing to Rams in NFC title game," 14 Sep. 2019 The Knights had yet to earn a first down when Pharrell Scorza dropped back on a third-and-long play. Andrew Turner, Daily Pilot, "Marina football uses six defensive turnovers to upset Katella," 13 Sep. 2019 Tykeem Valentine picked up a first down into Eagles territory, and the Engineers escaped. Pat Stoetzer,, "Football: Francis Scott Key can’t hold lead in opener, Poly prevails," 7 Sep. 2019 But The Woodlands answered with Janecek under center after starting quarterback Ben Mills and the offense couldn't muster a first down in two possessions. Angel Verdejo, Houston Chronicle, "The Woodlands rolls past Lamar for first win," 6 Sep. 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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Last Updated

13 Oct 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

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