- 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.
- Music. highest or chief among several voices or instruments of the same class: first alto; first horn.
- Automotive. low1(def 31).
- (often initial capital letter) being a member of the household or an intimate acquaintance of the president of the U.S. or of the governor of a state: the First Lady; Checkers, the first dog.
- before all others or anything else in time, order, rank, etc.
- before some other thing, event, etc.: If you’re going, phone first.
- for the first time: She first visited Atlanta in 1980.
- in preference to something else; rather; sooner: I’d die first.
- in the first place; firstly.
- the person or thing that is first in time, order, rank, etc.
- the beginning.
- the first part; first member of a series.
- 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.
- Automotive. low gear; first gear: She shifted into first and drove off.
- the winning position or rank in a race or other competition.
- Baseball. first base.
- Usually firsts. Commerce.
- a product or goods of the first or highest quality.
- goods produced according to specifications, without visible flaws.
- British University.
- first-class honors.Compare class(def 18).
- a person who has won such honors.
- 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.
adjective (usually prenominal)
- coming before all others; earliest, best, or foremost
- (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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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.
From the start, immediately. For example, He said to wash the car first off, or Why wasn’t she told first off? [Colloquial; late 1800s] Also see under first and foremost; first thing.
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
- 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