Meaning of FIRST in English

I. first 1 S1 W1 /fɜːst $ fɜːrst/ BrE AmE adjective

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: fyrst ]

1 . IN A SERIES coming before all the other things or people in a series:

Ella was his first girlfriend.

the first thing/time/day etc

The first time I flew on a plane I was really nervous.

In the first year, all students take five courses.

He said the first thing that came into his head.

the first step towards achieving a peace agreement

There’s a meeting on the first Monday of every month.

the first two/three/few etc

I only read the first two chapters of the book.

It rained during the first few days of the trip.

The first and last mountain I climbed was Mount Rundle (=it was the only mountain I ever climbed) .

2 . for the first time used to say that something has never happened or been done before:

For the first time in his life he felt truly happy.

The survey revealed that, for the first time, there are more women in the workplace than men.

Not for the first time she wondered how he coped with so many children.

3 . MAIN most important:

Our first priority is to maintain the standard of work.

As I see it, my first responsibility is to my family.

4 . in the first place

a) used to talk about the beginning of a situation, or the situation before something happened:

Why did you agree to meet her in the first place?

He wouldn’t have given you the job in the first place if he didn’t think you could do it.

b) written used to give the first in a list of reasons or points:

Her success was secured by two factors. In the first place, she had the support of managers.

5 . in the first instance formal at the start of a situation or series of actions:

The appointment of research officer will be for two years in the first instance.

Enquiries should be made in the first instance to the Human Resources Director.

6 . at first glance/sight the first time that you look at someone or something, before you notice any details:

At first glance the twins look identical.

At first sight, there didn’t appear to be much damage.

⇨ love at first sight at ↑ love 2 (2)

7 . first things first used to say that something should be done or dealt with first because it is the most important

8 . (at) first hand if you see, experience, hear etc something at first hand, you see, experience etc it yourself, not through other people:

Many people have seen the horrors of war at first hand.

⇨ ↑ first-hand

9 . first prize/place the prize that is given to the best person or thing in a competition

win/take first prize

She won first prize in a painting competition.

first prize/place of

There is a first prize of £10,000.

10 . first choice the thing or person you like best:

John was our first choice as a name for the baby.

11 . first thing as soon as you get up in the morning, or as soon as you start work:

I’ll call you first thing tomorrow.

We’re leaving first thing.

12 . at first light literary very early in the morning:

The search will resume at first light tomorrow.

13 . make the first move to be the person who starts to do something when someone else is too nervous, embarrassed etc to do it:

He was glad she had made the first move and kissed him.

14 . not have the first idea about something ( also not know/understand the first thing about something ) to not know anything about a subject, or not know how to do something:

I wouldn’t have the first idea about what to do in that situation.

I don’t know the first thing about cars.

15 . the first flush of something the beginning of a good period of time when you are young, successful etc

be in the first flush of passion/youth etc

He was no longer in the first flush of youth.

The first flush of enthusiasm had passed.

16 . JOB TITLE used in the title of someone’s job or position to show that they have a high rank:

the first officer

the First Lord of the Admiralty

17 . first among equals officially on the same level as other people but really having more power

18 . of the first water old-fashioned of the highest quality

II. first 2 S1 W2 BrE AmE adverb

1 . before anything or anyone else:

Cindy and Joe arrived first.

An extra five points will be given to the team that finishes first.

First of all we’d better make sure we’ve got everything we need.

2 . before doing anything else, or before anything else happens:

I’ll join you in a minute but I need to make a phone call first.

3 . done for the first time:

The book was first published in 2000.

4 . at the beginning of a situation or activity:

When we were first married we lived in Toronto.

We first became friends when we worked together.

5 . [sentence adverb] ( also first of all ) used before saying the first of several things you want to say SYN firstly :

First, I’d like to thank everyone for coming.

6 . first off informal

a) before doing anything else:

First off I’d like you all to fill in an evaluation sheet.

b) used before saying the first of several things you want to say, especially when you are annoyed:

First off I didn’t agree with the comments in your email.

7 . first up British English spoken informal used to introduce the first thing you are going to talk about, or the first thing that is going to happen:

First up is the Blues song ‘Mississippi Lad’.

8 . put somebody/something first to consider someone or something as the most important person or thing:

We need to choose energy policies that put the environment first.

Businesses should always put the customer first.

9 . come first

a) to be the most important person or thing to someone:

The care and well-being of patients should always come first.

As far as I’m concerned, the children come first.

come first with

Business always came first with Luke.

b) to win a competition

come first in

The choir came first in all sections of the competition.

10 . first and foremost used to emphasize the most important quality, purpose, reason etc:

Dublin is thought of first and foremost for its literary heritage.

11 . first and last used to emphasize that something is the most important thing or quality:

She regarded herself as a teacher first and last, not a writer.

12 . first come, first served used to say that something will be given to the people who ask for it first, when there is not enough for everyone:

Tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

• • •


▪ first/firstly used when mentioning the first in a list of reasons, arguments, or questions to consider:

I want you to consider these three points in your essay: first, what is the writer’s attitude to the war in this poem ...


There are several reasons for this conclusion. Firstly ...

▪ first of all used especially to emphasize that the first of several things you are going to say is the most important thing:

The content of the article must, first of all, be accurate.


First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last two years.

▪ in the first place spoken ( also for a start British English ) spoken used when giving the first and most important reason or example, especially when you are arguing or discussing something with someone:

Our main priority should be better public transport – in the first place to reduce the amount of traffic on our roads.


He’s not the right person for the job. For a start he’s too young.

▪ to begin with/to start with spoken used when telling someone the first and most important thing that you want to say:

There are numerous activities on offer. To start with there are over 60 miles of walks with splendid views.


Let me tell you something about him. To begin with, he is the most difficult man that I know.

III. first 3 BrE AmE noun

1 . at first used to talk about the beginning of a situation, especially when it is different now:

At first, Gregory was shy and hardly spoke.

I felt quite disappointed at first.

2 . [countable usually singular] something that has never happened or been done before

first for

The 3–0 defeat was a first for the team.

These results are firsts in the history of women’s athletics.

‘I think he’ll agree to it.’‘That will be a first.’

3 . from the (very) first from the beginning of a situation:

I was against the idea from the first.

I should have known from the first that the relationship would never work.

4 . [countable] the highest mark you can get in a university ↑ degree in Britain:

Helen got a first in Law.

5 . [uncountable] the lowest ↑ gear in a car or other vehicle, that you use when moving slowly SYN first gear

in first

You should be in first on a hill like this.

He put the car into first and roared away.

IV. first 4 BrE AmE pronoun

1 . the first the first person to do something, or the first thing to happen:

There are now many similar housing projects but this was the first.

We hope this year’s festival will be the first of many.

the first to do something

I always thought my sister would be the first to get married.

James was the first to arrive.

2 . the first I knew/heard used when you have just discovered something that other people already know, and you are slightly annoyed:

The first I knew he was in York was when I got an email from him.

the first I knew/heard of/about

The first I knew about it was when Tony called me.

3 . the First spoken used after the name of a king, queen, or Pope when other later ones have the same name:

Queen Elizabeth the First (=written as Queen Elizabeth I)

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.