General English


  • noun a person or thing that is there at the beginning or earlier than others


  • acronym forHerschel Space Observatory
    (written as FIRST)

Media Studies

  • abbreviation forfirst assistant director

Origin & History of “first”

As its -st ending suggests, first was originally a superlative form. Its distant ancestor was Indo-European *pro, denoting ‘before, in front’ (amongst whose other descendants to have reached English are prime and the prefix proto-). Its Germanic offspring was *fur, *for (source also of English for and fore), from which the superlative *furistaz, literally ‘most in front’, was formed. Besides English first and the related Swedish först and Danish først (which etymologically are the equivalent of foremost), this has produced German fürst and Dutch vorst ‘prince’.