first down

noun
plural first downs

Definition of first down

1 : the first of a series of usually four downs (see down entry 5 sense 3a) 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 On Michigan's next drive, taking over on their own 12 with just more than four minutes left, the Panthers managed only one first down before punting. Tony Garcia, Detroit Free Press, 23 Apr. 2022 Kentucky started the game in dominant fashion, forcing a punt after just one Iowa first down on the opening drive then marching 80 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown on its first offensive possession. Jon Hale, USA TODAY, 2 Jan. 2022 Kentucky started the game in dominant fashion, forcing a punt after just one Iowa first down on the opening drive then marching 80 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown on its first offensive possession. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, 1 Jan. 2022 Robinson had six carries of 15-plus yards with a long of 23 -- a crucial first down on a touchdown drive that sent the Tide to halftime up 17-3. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al, 31 Dec. 2021 Three plays later, on a third and 10, Allen threw a shovel pass to Diggs, who staved off Jackson and fought for the extra yardage to convert another critical first down. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 29 Dec. 2021 Without Chase, Mixon would have simply gotten the first down. Charlie Goldsmith, The Enquirer, 5 Feb. 2022 San Francisco didn’t get a single first down or pass completion until Garoppolo connected with George Kittle on a 15-yard gain with less than 6 ½ minutes left in the second quarter. Steve Megargee, ajc, 23 Jan. 2022 Rodgers was somehow able keep the Packers alive in the final moments of the divisional round, finding Jeff Janis on fourth-and-20 for a 60-yard completion that registered a first down with 30 seconds left. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of first down

1885, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for first down

Time Traveler

The first known use of first down was in 1885

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Dictionary Entries Near first down

first division

first down

first edition

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Statistics for first down

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“First down.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/first%20down. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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