[ furst ]
See synonyms for: firstfirsts on

  1. being before all others with respect to time, order, rank, importance, etc., used as the ordinal number of one: the first edition; the first vice president.

  2. Music. highest or chief among several voices or instruments of the same class: first alto; first horn.

  1. Automotive. low1 (def. 31).

  2. (often initial capital letter) being a member of the household or an intimate acquaintance of the president of the United States or of the governor of a state: the First Lady; Checkers, the first dog.

  1. before all others or anything else in time, order, rank, etc.

  2. before some other thing, event, etc.: If you're going, phone first.

  1. for the first time: She first visited Atlanta in 1980.

  2. in preference to something else; rather; sooner: I'd die first.

  3. in the first place; firstly.

  1. the person or thing that is first in time, order, rank, etc.

  2. the beginning.

  1. the first part; first member of a series.

  2. Music.

    • the voice or instrument that takes the highest or chief part in its class, especially in an orchestra or chorus.

    • a leader of a part or group of performers.

  3. Automotive. low gear; first gear: She shifted into first and drove off.

  4. the winning position or rank in a race or other competition.

  5. Usually firsts .Commerce. : Compare second1 (def. 23), third (def. 12).

    • a product or goods of the first or highest quality.

    • goods produced according to specifications, without visible flaws.

  6. British University.

    • first-class honors.: See also class (def. 18).

    • a person who has won such honors.

Idioms about first

  1. first and last, everything considered; above all else; altogether: First and last, it is important to know oneself.

  2. first off, Informal. at the outset; in the beginning: He wanted to know first off why he hadn't been notified.

  1. first thing, before anything else: I'll call you first thing when I arrive.

Origin of first

First recorded before 1000; Middle English; Old English fyr(e)st; cognate with German Fürst “prince”; see fore1, -est1

Other words from first

  • firstness, adjective

Words Nearby first Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use first in a sentence

  • This is the first and principal point at which we can stanch the wastage of teaching energy that now goes on.

    The Salvaging Of Civilisation | H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • He was converted and baptized, and was the first Hebrew instructor at Harvard college.

  • And I have not had the first morsel of food prepared from this grain offered me since I reached the shores of Europe.

    Glances at Europe | Horace Greeley
  • Now first we shall want our pupil to understand, speak, read and write the mother tongue well.

    The Salvaging Of Civilisation | H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • In treble, second and fourth, the first change is a dodge behind; and the second time the treble leads, there's a double Bob.

    Tintinnalogia, or, the Art of Ringing | Richard Duckworth and Fabian Stedman

British Dictionary definitions for first


/ (fɜːst) /

adjective(usually prenominal)
    • coming before all others; earliest, best, or foremost

    • (as noun): I was the first to arrive

  1. preceding all others in numbering or counting order; the ordinal number of one . Often written: 1st

  1. rated, graded, or ranked above all other levels

  2. denoting the lowest forward ratio of a gearbox in a motor vehicle

  3. music

    • denoting the highest part assigned to one of the voice parts in a chorus or one of the sections of an orchestra: first soprano; the first violins

    • denoting the principal player in a specific orchestral section: he plays first horn

  4. first thing as the first action of the day: I'll see you first thing tomorrow

  5. first things first things must be done in order of priority

  6. the first thing (in negative constructions) even one thing: he doesn't know the first thing about me

  1. the beginning; outset: I knew you were a rogue from the first; I couldn't see at first because of the mist

  2. education, mainly British an honours degree of the highest class: Full term: first-class honours degree

  1. something which has not occurred before: a first for the company

  2. the lowest forward ratio of a gearbox in a motor vehicle; low gear

  3. music

    • the highest part in a particular section of a chorus or orchestra

    • the instrument or voice taking such a part

    • the chief or leading player in a section of an orchestra; principal

  4. music a rare word for prime (def. 11)

  1. before anything else in order, time, preference, importance, etc: do this first; first, remove the head and tail of the fish

  2. first and last on the whole; overall

  1. from first to last throughout

  2. for the first time: I've loved you since I first saw you

  3. (sentence modifier) in the first place or beginning of a series of actions: first I want to talk about criminality

Origin of first

Old English fyrest; related to Old Saxon furist, Old Norse fyrstr, German Fürst prince, one who is first in rank

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with first


In addition to the idioms beginning with first

  • first and foremost
  • first and last
  • first blush
  • first come, first served
  • first cousin
  • first hand
  • first of all
  • first off
  • first thing
  • first things first

also see:

  • at first
  • at first blush
  • at first hand
  • cast the first stone
  • get to first base
  • if at first you don't succeed
  • in the first place
  • in the (first) flush of
  • love at first sight
  • not know beans (the first thing)
  • of the first water
  • on a first-name basis

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.