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

  • 4
    How about "Firstly"?
    – Ste
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 12:49
  • @Ste How does that differ from 'First'?
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 13:47
  • First, no. or yes. But not Firstly. And it will not be defined as indicating primary criteria.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 14:36
  • 1
    @SrJoven 'First' and 'Firstly' are both acceptable as pragmatic [discourse structuring] markers ("Practical English Usage" p 141; Michael Swan Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 14:47
  • 1
    @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. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 14:49

5 Answers 5


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
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 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
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 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. Commented Oct 8, 2014 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
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 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. Commented Oct 9, 2014 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
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 18:04
  • @talrnu It's out there. See this ngram
    – bib
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 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
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 18:00

Topmost fits the description in the question. Another word may be foremost.

Topmost (Collins Dictionary) The topmost thing in a number of things is the one that is highest or nearest the top. (Cambridge Dictionary) Highest.

Foremost (Collins Dictionary) The foremost thing or person in a group is the most important or best.

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