English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Are there any specific words for the first events and first things like the first rain, the first fruit of a plant, the first grey hairs, etc.?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by tchrist, Barrie England, StoneyB, Jason Bourne, FumbleFingers Jan 13 '13 at 17:30

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I’m afraid you’ll have to narrow this unless you want everybody offering up their own firstborn thoughts and opinions. – tchrist Jan 13 '13 at 13:59
'maiden'? --the adjective, not the noun. alt.: 'prime'. – Kris Jan 13 '13 at 14:00
@tchrist is correct, unfortunately. I just offered up a bundle of firstborn thoughts and opinions. – Ellie Kesselman Jan 13 '13 at 14:48
"First"? I don't get the problem. Are you looking for a synonym of 'first'? – Mitch Jan 13 '13 at 17:49

Yes, there are many different forms of expressions that indicate a particular event or thing that is the first of its kind.

You can simply use prefix to form specific words for the first events and first things


original; primitive:

first; anterior; relating to a precursor

such as protohuman, protolanguage, protohistory, protomartyr, prototype, etc.


primitive; original; earliest

such as urtext, urheimat, urlanguage, urmonotheismus, urreligion, etc.

Or to describe it with an adjective, like maiden or prime as suggested by Kris


being or involving the first attempt or act of its kind: the ship's maiden voyage.


of first importance; main: her prime concern is the well-being of the patient.


marking the beginning of an institution, activity, or period of office: his inaugural concert as music director.


existing or occurring at the beginning: our initial impression was favorable.

Or use a noun:


the establishment or starting point of an institution or activity: she has been on the board since its inception two years ago.


a first, typical or preliminary model of something, esp. a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied: the firm is testing a prototype of the weapon | the prototype of all careerists is Judas.


an original that has been imitated: the archetype of faith is Abraham.

share|improve this answer

There are some very specific ones for particular cases, like primigravida which is a woman who is pregnant for the first time (by extension, a woman who has been pregnant once will still be called a primigravida until such a time as she becomes a secundigravida).

Aboriginal refers to the first people in a place (though people tend to assume things were in an unchanging state until they arrived on the scene - settlers to an area may call those they find aboriginal even if that group had in fact also displaced an earlier group).

Virgin is used in a variety of contexts, metaphorically. It most often means that something has not had its first case of something else (it comes up a lot in magical texts), but there are a few cases where it means the first of something such as the virgin pressing of oil.

Related to virgin, maiden is used of voyages of a ship, though some other uses differ - a maiden race is a race by a horse that has not yet won a race, not necessarily it's first.

Of course, there's always first itself. In particular, "first fruits" referring to the first produce of a harvest, and to festivals that celebrate them.

And many first things are harbingers of what is to come. This refers not to their being the first specifically, but of the first grey hairs, first frost of winter, etc. being harbingers of age, impending winter etc.

share|improve this answer
This is a wonderful answer. It is full of sturm und drang! – Ellie Kesselman Jan 13 '13 at 14:32
  • Alpha as in "I am the Alpha and the Omega" i.e. the first and last

  • Indigenous to describe the native people of a land: In North America, the Eskimo are indigenous Americans of the north, whereas Navajo and Hopi are indigenous Americans where I live, in Arizona.

There are words to convey "before the first", such as inchoate or incipient. There is also order of precedence, for example, a precursor, which is a term in chemistry and elsewhere. Many words with "ante" as a prefix also indicate precedence though not being "first". Antediluvian (before the flood), antebellum (before the war, often referring to the U.S. Civil War but not necessarily), antecedent (a part of speech that is prior to another, among other things) or even antipasto (the meal before a main dish) all mean prior but not the very first. I would not use any of these to describe first events or first things. Other answers have provided many good suggestions, to which I would only add alpha and indigenous.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.