first and last, everything considered; above all else; altogether: First and last, it is important to know oneself.
    first off, Informal. at the outset; immediately: He wanted to know first off why he hadn't been notified.
    first thing, before anything else; at once; promptly: I'll call you first thing when I arrive.

Origin of first

before 1000; Middle English; Old English fyr(e)st (see fore1, -est1); cognate with German Fürst prince
Related formsfirst·ness, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for first and last


adjective (usually prenominal)

  1. coming before all others; earliest, best, or foremost
  2. (as noun)I was the first to arrive
preceding all others in numbering or counting order; the ordinal number of one . Often written: 1st
rated, graded, or ranked above all other levels
denoting the lowest forward ratio of a gearbox in a motor vehicle
  1. denoting the highest part assigned to one of the voice parts in a chorus or one of the sections of an orchestrafirst soprano; the first violins
  2. denoting the principal player in a specific orchestral sectionhe plays first horn
first thing as the first action of the dayI'll see you first thing tomorrow
first things first things must be done in order of priority
the first thing (in negative constructions) even one thinghe doesn't know the first thing about me


the beginning; outsetI knew you were a rogue from the first; I couldn't see at first because of the mist
education, mainly British an honours degree of the highest classFull term: first-class honours degree
something which has not occurred beforea first for the company
the lowest forward ratio of a gearbox in a motor vehicle; low gear
  1. the highest part in a particular section of a chorus or orchestra
  2. the instrument or voice taking such a part
  3. the chief or leading player in a section of an orchestra; principal
music a rare word for prime (def. 11)


before anything else in order, time, preference, importance, etcdo this first; first, remove the head and tail of the fish
first and last on the whole; overall
from first to last throughout
for the first timeI've loved you since I first saw you
(sentence modifier) in the first place or beginning of a series of actionsfirst I want to talk about criminality
See also firsts

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for first and last


adj., adv.

Old English fyrst "foremost," superlative of fore; from Proto-Germanic *furisto- (cf. Old Saxon fuirst "first," Old High German furist, Old Norse fyrstr, Danish første, Old Frisian ferist, Middle Dutch vorste "prince," Dutch vorst "first," German Fürst "prince"), superlative of *fur-/*for-, from PIE root *per- (1) "forward, through" (see per).

First-class (adj.) is from 1837; first-rate (1660s) is from classes of warships in the British navy. First aid is that given at the scene, pending the arrival of a doctor.

First Lady as an informal title for the wife of a U.S. president was in use by 1908, short for First lady of the land (by 1863 with reference to the president's wife). First name is attested from mid-13c.; first-born is from mid-14c. First base "a start" (1938) is a figurative use from the game of baseball.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

first and last in Medicine




Coming before all others in order or location.
Occurring or acting before all others in time; earliest.
Being the innermost digit, especially on a foot.
Related formsfirst n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with first and last

first and last

Under all circumstances, always, as in She was an artist first and last. (For a synonym, see above all.) This expression, first recorded in 1589, should not be confused with the similar-sounding from first to last, which means “from start to finish” or “throughout,” as in We cheered them on from first to last.


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.