Is there a single word or idiom for " the first thing to consider is"?

  • 3
    How about "Firstly"? – Ste Oct 8 '14 at 12:49
  • @Ste How does that differ from 'First'? – WS2 Oct 8 '14 at 13:47
  • First, no. or yes. But not Firstly. And it will not be defined as indicating primary criteria. – SrJoven Oct 8 '14 at 14:36
  • 1
    @SrJoven 'First' and 'Firstly' are both acceptable as pragmatic [discourse structuring] markers ("Practical English Usage" p 141; Michael Swan – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '14 at 14:47
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    @SrJoven You're correct that this is discourse-structuring rather than highlighting/focusing. 'First and foremost' (this time not 'firstly') is needed to fulfil both roles. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '14 at 14:49

I think priority may fit: (from TFD)

  • Precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency.
  • A preceding or coming earlier in time.
  • Something afforded or deserving prior attention.

or the expression: 'at the top of the list':

  • If something is at the top of the list, it is of highest priority, most important, most urgent, or the next in one's line of attention.

First off and first of all are other common expressions.

  • Thanks, I am hoping for some sorts of adv like "firstly " as mentioned . – InGeometry Oct 8 '14 at 13:01

A rather unusual (importance-)emphasising pragmatic marker is imperatively.

Imperatively, we MUST peel off probable Republican votes.

(Dennis Macek speaking to ‎Dave Domina) on Facebook

Most importantly is rather more common, but I think that 'importantly' on its own is a rather rare pragmatic usage.

  • Neither of these describe order, only importance. Important things don't necessarily come first. – talrnu Oct 8 '14 at 18:07
  • @talmu Ah, you've missed this sense for first: foremost in position, rank, or importance. "the doctor's first duty is to respect this right" [Google Dictionary]. This is an acceptable reading of 'The first thing we must consider is ... / The first thing to consider is ...'. 'First' or 'Firstly' is the structuring marker – either way, your question is not a good one. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 8 '14 at 18:28
  • I suppose this is something the asker needs to clarify. To my knowledge, the phrase given in the question more often prioritizes position over importance, but I can see how it might be used in the way you're describing. – talrnu Oct 8 '14 at 19:36
  • OP did subsequently clarify. A look at the answers given before that shows that both senses of 'first' were assumed by different responders. It's difficult to judge which sense is prevailing in most of the Google returns for a "the first thing to consider is" search, but there seem to be ten times as many hits as there are for "the second thing to consider is". Obviously, with 'the first thing to cook is', the sequencing sense is almost mandatory. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 9 '14 at 8:45

The idiom front burner or to be on the front burner means

to be of the hiɡhest priority: It helps to put an important issue back on the front burner. It's on my front burner.


  • 1
    I've only ever heard on the back burner, which suggests the opposite. I only understand on the front burner because I know of the former idiom. Just an observation. – talrnu Oct 8 '14 at 18:04
  • @talrnu It's out there. See this ngram – bib Oct 8 '14 at 18:18

Adv : Primarily, means in the beginning

  • Primarily describes importance or significance, not order. The last in a list of things to consider could still be of primary importance. – talrnu Oct 8 '14 at 18:00

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