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 receiver Jaylen Waddle, who broke his ankle on Oct. 24, made an improbable return in the College Football Playoff championship game and took a 15-yard jet sweep for a first down on his first play from scrimmage in more than two months. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Alabama's Jaylen Waddle returns from injury to play in national championship, limps after first play," 12 Jan. 2021 There was 1:25 left when Baker Mayfield tried to sneak for the first down at the Jets 16. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Why a Baker Mayfield sneak is better than a Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt run," 29 Dec. 2020 Watson threw a 50-yard pass to Brandin Cooks on Houston’s next possession to give the team a first down at the 7. Kristie Rieken, Chron, "Bengals beat Texans for first road win since 2018," 27 Dec. 2020 Darnold passes short left to Perriman for 17 yards and a first down at the Seahawks 28. oregonlive, "Russell Wilson’s 4 TD passes leads the Seattle Seahawks to a dominant win over the New York Jets: Live updates recap, score, stats and more," 14 Dec. 2020 Gotay’s personal foul gave Rutgers a first down at Maryland’s 42. Edward Lee,, "QB Eric Najarian shows promise and more takeaways from Maryland football’s 27-24 OT loss to Rutgers," 13 Dec. 2020 The penalty gave the Gophers a first down inside the Nebraska 10, and Morgan found tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford in the back of the end zone for a touchdown right before halftime. Star Tribune, "Gophers' Tanner Morgan shows passing skill that Huskers' Adrian Martinez lacks," 12 Dec. 2020 Later, The Colts sacked Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill on 3rd-and-goal, but Ya-Sin held on the play, giving the Titans a first down at the 1. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, "Rock Ya-Sin benched after committing 2 penalties on same series," 29 Nov. 2020 The penalty gave the Seahawks a first down at the Cardinals 17, and running back Carlos Hyde scored from 2 yards out two snaps later as Seattle took a 23-14 lead. Mark Inabinett |, al, "Seattle holds off Arizona in NFL Thursday night game," 20 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for first down

Time Traveler

The first known use of first down was in 1885

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Statistics for first down

Last Updated

18 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“First down.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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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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