[ furst-lee ]
/ ˈfɜrst li /
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in the first place; first.


Words In The Dictionary That People Hate

Listen up, word nerds, this video is for you. Firstly, don't hate ... watch with an open mind. Because words like firstly may be nonstandard, sure, but that doesn't mean they're wrong.

Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
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Origin of firstly

First recorded in 1525–35; first + -ly
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does firstly mean?

Firstly means in the first place or first, as in Firstly, I did study for the test, and secondly, the test was long and difficult.

You will most often see firstly at the start of a sentence that details a first point in an argument. Sentences that detail other points in the argument may begin with second, secondly, and similar terms that number (that is, enumerate) your points.

Example: Firstly, I’d like to point out that I was never on the site on that day.

Where does firstly come from?

The first records of the term firstly come from around 1525. It ultimately comes from the Old English fyrst. It combines the word first, meaning “before all others,” and the suffix ly, which creates adverbs out of adjectives.

You might have heard that you should use first instead of firstly to introduce a sentence, but the reasons for this aren’t very strong. Firstly, you might have heard that it isn’t a word or isn’t proper grammar, but firstly has been an acceptable way to number a first point for several hundred years. Second, you might hear that first is better because it’s shorter. We can’t argue with that, but unless you’re writing a tweet, two letters might not make a difference. Thirdly, you could be told that using firstly sounds overly formal. If you use a lot of other words with a formal tone, that could be true. But one word does not create the tone for a whole document.

If you do use firstly, you might be advised to use secondly, thirdly, and so on for consistency. Consistency is a fine thing, but many skilled writers have mixed enumeration styles without comment, including English essayist and critic William Hazlitt and US president Jimmy Carter (and now Dictionary.com). Using firstly is a matter of writing style rather than proper grammar or usage. While you should probably follow whatever style your teacher wants you to, it isn’t wrong to use firstly.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for firstly?

What are some words that share a root or word element with firstly

What are some words that often get used in discussing firstly?

What are some words firstly may be commonly confused with?

How is firstly used in real life?

When used, firstly often appears in more formal writing or contexts that want to sound more formal or proper.

Try using firstly!

True or False?

It’s OK to use firstly to start a sentence.

How to use firstly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for firstly

/ (ˈfɜːstlɪ) /

coming before other points, questions, etc
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