I want to say that a person (Egill Skallagrímsson, just for the record) committed his first killing of an enemy at the age of seven.

However, it seems to me that this phrase:

When he was 7, he killed his first enemy

could possibly imply that at the age of seven he killed the man who happened to be his first enemy, and this might not be the first from his enemies who died from his hand.

Am I right? If I am, what would be the way to convey this meaning unequivocally?

  • 2
    Perhaps killed his first man (on the assumption that Vikings would not be in favour of killing women). The natural assumption would be that anyone you killed was your enemy (unless you are talking about accident). May 29, 2013 at 10:42
  • @TimLymington: right, but the enemy should somehow be there (as opposed to a friend or unrelated person).
    – Quassnoi
    May 29, 2013 at 10:43
  • 1
    Sure, there's an ambiguity in 'first'. He could have killed many people but this one was the first that was also an enemy. Unequivocally say: "He had killed many already, but this was the first of his enemies that he killed." Or the other way, "This enemy was the first person he killed."
    – Mitch
    May 29, 2013 at 12:35
  • @TimLymington Some nuns would like to disagree wiht your statement of not being in favour of killing women. Also, would the innocent victim of a rampage be called an "ennemy" of the madman doing the killing or "innocent victim"?
    – P. O.
    May 29, 2013 at 13:19
  • @JoBedard: I agree that 'enemy' is context-dependent: a lunatic's rampage I would class as accidental, but a berserk (who might well kill without knowing it) would usually be said to have killed enemies nonetheless. May 29, 2013 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Try something like: He first killed an enemy when he was only seven years old

The word first needs to qualify the killing (the verb), not the enemy (the object).


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