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

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 And by the end of this instant classic, the two teams had combined for a Super Bowl-record 1,151 yards and also set records for most combined passing yards (874) and passing first downs (42). Terez A. Paylor, kansascity, "Eagles topple Patriots to win Super Bowl 41-33 | The Kansas City Star," 4 Feb. 2018 By game's end, the teams had combined for 940 yards of offense and 38 first downs. Creg Stephenson,, "Senior Bowl 2018: South quarterbacks shine in 45-16 victory over North," 27 Jan. 2018 In the second half, Tennessee amassed 18 first downs, with 148 of their 270 total yards gained on the ground. Blair Kerkhoff, kansascity, "Intent wasn't defense, defense, defense. It just worked that way for Chiefs | The Kansas City Star," 30 Apr. 2018 Additionally, 65 percent of Cooks’ receptions went for first downs, topping his previous career best of 58 percent in 2016. Stephen Holder, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Inside the mind of Josh McDaniels," 1 Feb. 2018 No points, few first downs, tense waiting for the big bang. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Super Bowl history game-by-game, from Packers to Patriots | Miami Herald," 30 Jan. 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

1 Sep 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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alleviating pain or harshness

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