adj., n., & adv.
adj. 1 a earliest in time or order. b coming next after a specified or implied time (shall take the first train; the first cuckoo). 2 foremost in position, rank, or importance (First Lord of the Treasury; first mate). 3 Mus. performing the highest or chief of two or more parts for the same instrument or voice. 4 most willing or likely (should be the first to admit the difficulty). 5 basic or evident (first principles).
n. 1 (prec. by the) the person or thing first mentioned or occurring. 2 the first occurrence of something notable. 3 a a place in the first class in an examination. b a person having this. 4 the first day of a month. 5 first gear. 6 a first place in a race. b the winner of this. 7 (in pl.) goods of the best quality.
adv. 1 before any other person or thing (first of all; first and foremost; first come first served). 2 before someone or something else (must get this done first). 3 for the first time (when did you first see her?). 4 in preference; rather (will see him damned first). 5 first-class (I usually travel first). at first at the beginning. at first hand directly from the original source. first aid help given to an injured person until proper medical treatment is available. first and last taking one thing with another, on the whole. first blood see BLOOD. first-born adj. eldest.
n. the eldest child of a person. First Cause the Creator of the universe. first class 1 a set of persons or things grouped together as the best. 2 the best accommodation in a train, ship, etc. 3 the class of mail given priority in handling. 4 a the highest division in an examination list. b a place in this. first-class adj. 1 belonging to or travelling by the first class. 2 of the best quality; very good.
adv. by the first class (travels first-class). first cousin see COUSIN. first-day cover an envelope with stamps postmarked on their first day of issue. first-degree Med. denoting burns that affect only the surface of the skin, causing reddening. first finger the finger next to the thumb. first floor see FLOOR. first-foot Sc. n. the first person to cross a threshold in the New Year.
v.intr. be a first-foot. first-fruit (usu. in pl.) 1 the first agricultural produce of a season, esp. as offered to God. 2 the first results of work etc. 3 hist. a payment to a superior by the new holder of an office. first gear see GEAR. first intention see INTENTION. First Lady (in the US) the wife of the President. first lesson the first of several passages from the Bible read at a service in the Church of England. first lieutenant US an army or air force officer next below captain. first light the time when light first appears in the morning. first mate (on a merchant ship) the officer second in command to the master. first name a personal or Christian name. first night the first public performance of a play etc. first-nighter a habitual attender of first nights. first off US colloq. at first, first of all. first offender a criminal against whom no previous conviction is recorded. first officer the mate on a merchant ship. first or last sooner or later. first past the post 1 winning a race etc. by being the first to reach the finishing line. 2 (of an electoral system) selecting a candidate or party by simple majority (see also proportional representation, single transferable vote). first person see PERSON. first post see POST(3). first-rate adj. of the highest class, excellent.
adv. colloq. 1 very well (feeling first-rate). 2 excellently. first reading the occasion when a Bill is presented to a legislature to permit its introduction. first refusal see REFUSAL. first school Brit. a school for children from 5 to 9 years old. first sergeant US the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in a company. first-strike denoting a first aggressive attack with nuclear weapons. first thing colloq. before anything else; very early in the morning (shall do it first thing). the first thing even the most elementary fact or principle (does not know the first thing about it). first things first the most important things before any others (we must do first things first). first up Austral. first of all; at the first attempt. from the first from the beginning. from first to last throughout. get to first base US achieve the first step towards an objective. in the first place as the first consideration. of the first water see WATER.
[ OE fyrst f. Gmc ]