/ fɜːst; NAmE fɜːrst/ determiner , ordinal number , adverb , noun
■ determiner , ordinal number
happening or coming before all other similar things or people; 1st :
his first wife
It was the first time they had ever met.
I didn't take the first bus.
students in their first year at college
your first impressions
She resolved to do it at the first (= earliest) opportunity.
King Edward I (= said as 'King Edward the First')
the first of May / May 1st
His second book is better than his first.
the most important or best :
Your first duty is to your family.
She won first prize in the competition.
an issue of the first importance
- there's a first time for everything
—more at order noun
before anyone or anything else; at the beginning :
'Do you want a drink?' 'I'll finish my work first.'
First I had to decide what to wear.
Who came first in the race (= who won) ?
It plunged nose first into the river.
for the first time :
When did you first meet him?
used to introduce the first of a list of points you want to make in a speech or piece of writing
SYN firstly :
This method has two advantages: first it is cheaper and second it is quicker.
used to emphasize that you are determined not to do sth :
She swore that she wouldn't apologize—she'd die first!
- at first
- come first
- first and foremost
- first and last
- first come, first served
- first of all
➡ note at firstly
- first off
- first up
- put sb/sth first
—more at foot noun , head noun , safety
the first [ C ] ( pl. the first ) the first person or thing mentioned; the first person or thing to do a particular thing :
I was the first in my family to go to college.
Sheila and Jim were the first to arrive.
I'd be the first to admit (= I will most willingly admit) I might be wrong.
The first I heard about the wedding (= the first time I became aware of it) was when I saw it in the local paper.
[ C , usually sing. ] an achievement, event, etc., never done or experienced before :
We went on a cruise, a first for both of us.
(also ˌfirst ˈgear ) [ U ] the lowest gear on a car, bicycle, etc. that you use when you are moving slowly :
He stuck the car in first and revved.
[ C ] first (in sth) the highest level of university degree at British universities :
She got a first in maths at Exeter.
—compare second , third
- first among equals
- from the (very) first
- from first to last
Old English fyr(e)st ; of Germanic origin, related to Old Norse fyrstr and German Fürst prince, from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit prathama , Latin primus , and Greek prōtos .