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I am looking for a noun that means firstness as exemplified in the following

Examples

Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us can achieve firstness in something.

Neil Armstrong exhibited firstness by being the first person on the moon.

Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer firstness over correctness.

I thought of primacy. However the dictionary meaning doesn't fit -- primacy refers to importance rather than temporal 'firstness'.

I specifically want it to mean that the person achieves or completes something sooner than anyone else. Not that they achieve it better or to more acclaim.

Question: What is a noun (or failing that a short phrase) that means 'firstness' and would fit into those sentences without changing any other words?

  • 4
    Because it's such a polysemic word, actually using it might be awkward in a given context, but priority has the meaning you seek, as in academic discoveries and seating nobility at a dinner table. – Dan Bron Oct 20 '15 at 10:46
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    Pioneership comes to mind but it is not a usual word to use for your examples. Although, I would suggest rephrasing your sentences to use pioneer. – ermanen Oct 20 '15 at 14:10
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    Although it may be technically correct, I'm not sure that pioneer is idiomatic for the examples given. Pioneer suggests something qualitatively new, rather than just a quantitative difference: Calling Armstrong a pioneer sounds right; calling the speedy quizzer a pioneer sounds plain wrong; (and even calling Bannister a pioneer is pushing it, imo). – LukeH Oct 20 '15 at 16:44
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    @chaslyfromUK: I didn't ask you to do that, I merely suggested. I don't think there is a word for it for your example sentences. No answer so far fits as a noun or they don't sound natural. As you see, the answer with the words "pioneer" and "pioneering" is the most up-voted one but they don't fit. Your sentences need rewriting in order to use them. The right form of the word you look for is "pioneership" but it doesn't sound natural when you use it in your example sentences. – ermanen Oct 21 '15 at 4:34
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    I totally agree w/the OP that this is NOT a duplicate of the question cited (nor of any other question, AFAIK). My “Ooops” comment under my answer below shows that I, too, originally misread the question, thinking that it DID want the noun for such a person(which would be a duplicate), but a quick re-reading of the question made it clear that OP seeks a noun for the quality of such a person & not one for that person. The ‘evolution’ of my answer (see 2nd edit) might help to explain the difference (much more than a nuance) between “a particular person” & “the particular quality of that person.” – Papa Poule Oct 21 '15 at 19:27

11 Answers 11

7

You may be looking for pioneer and pioneering:

The definition of pioneer from Merriam-Webster is:

a: person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development

b : one of the first to settle in a territory

So pioneering means being one of the first that thinks of or does something.

  • No, I do not mean 'pioneer'. A pioneer is a person. It does not fit into my examples at all. For example, you cannot say, "Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer pioneer over correctness." Your suggestion of 'pioneering' is marginally better but I don't think answering first in a quiz counts as pioneering. Thank you for the attempt however. – chasly from UK Oct 21 '15 at 18:47
5

"Whether intentionally or not, John always seems to be out “front, running” ahead of the pack and “blazing the trail.”

The above notions kind of imply “firstness,” and derived from them there are: “Trailblazer” and “Front-runner” for single-word nouns.

Trailblazer: “a person who is the first to do or discover something and so makes it possible for others to follow”

(from Oxford Learner’s Dictionary)

Front-runner or frontrunner is a term used to describe the leaders in a race, whether political or athletic.

(from Wikipedia)

Although “trailblazer” and “front-runner” might capture in one word the notion of “a person who is first,” neither of them capture the notion or characteristic of “firstness” that you are seeking.

Combining them, however, with something like “spirit,” “nature,” or “tendencies” to get noun phrases like “trailblazing/trailblazer spirit/nature/tendencies” and “front-running/front-runner spirit/nature/tendencies” could work in your first two examples with slight modification:

“Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us have the front-running/front-runner spirit/nature/tendencies needed to achieve [what he achieved].”

“Neil Armstrong exhibited [his] trailblazing/trailblazer spirit/nature/tendencies by [doing what he did].”

Your third example would require creating a phrase with another word in order to make “front-running” work, like “reckless,” “compulsive,” or even “pointless”:

“Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer reckless/compulsive/pointless front-running over correctness.”

The only single word that I can see that could possibly work in all three examples would be “pacesetter/pacesetting,” and this only because it has two meanings:

pace•set•ter … [related forms: pace′set′ting adj. & n.] … n.

  1. a person or group that serves as a model to be imitated or followed; leader.

  2. one that sets the pace, as in racing.

    (from ‘American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.’ Copyright © 2011 and ‘Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary,’ © 2010 both via ‘The Free Dictionary’)

“Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us can achieve pacesetting [pacesetter/setting status]/[be pacesetters] in something.” (definition #1)

“Neil Armstrong exhibited pacesetting/[is/was/became a pacesetter] by being the first person on the moon.” (definition #1)

“Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer pacesetting over correctness.” (definition #2)

  • Yes, so I could use the term 'trailblazing' or 'front-running'. As in, "Neil Armstrong exhibited trailblazing by being the first person on the moon." (+1 and I'll wait for others - I still like DanBron's 'priority') – chasly from UK Oct 20 '15 at 13:41
  • Ooops! For some reason I answered thinking you wanted a noun for this kind of 'trailblazing' (the adjective) person and not, as you clearly want, one for the characteristic of 'firstness' itself. Thanks for kindly arriving at "trailblazing" (the noun) for me from my answer! However, with your kindness in mind, I'm not sure that "N. A. exhibited trailblazing by ..." (single-word noun) would work; but perhaps "N.A. exhibited his trailblazing nature/tendencies by ... ." would (adjective used in two-word phrase). – Papa Poule Oct 20 '15 at 14:32
4

What's wrong with first?

Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us can achieve being the first at something.

Neil Armstrong was the first person on the moon.

Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer being first over being correct.

  • Ooh you had me there for a moment! That was until I checked my original sentences and realised you changed the wording. The thing is I need a noun whereas 'first' is an adjective. – chasly from UK Oct 21 '15 at 3:04
  • @chaslyfromUK I'm using first as a noun here, in the first two examples. – dwjohnston Oct 21 '15 at 3:09
  • Then you should remove 'person'. The problem is that it's the third example that is the most important to get right. Still, 'first' as a noun is a good suggestion (+1) – chasly from UK Oct 21 '15 at 3:09
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    @chaslyfromUK your comment conflicts with the title in the question, which categorically states specifically completing something before anyone else does. Now, you're often the first to “complain” when a user moves the goalposts on a question you have answered, so now I'm turning the tables onto you! Ha! Furthermore, to answer a question first in a quiz doesn't imply they have completed anything, they were merely the fastest. – Mari-Lou A Oct 21 '15 at 6:10
2

The word anteriority might work:

Anterior: Occurring before in time; earlier.

(AHD)

Its synonyms precedence and antecedence may work as well.

  • Ambitious for a desire to be the first. – V.V. Oct 20 '15 at 10:54
  • @chaslyfromUK Oh, I see. Updated the answer. – A.P. Oct 20 '15 at 17:36
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    +1 Precedence works very well in example sentence 3: Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer precedence over correctness. – AndyT Oct 21 '15 at 8:39
1

Consider precursoriness.

precursor: something that comes before something else and that often leads to or influences its development

M-W

1

In short, to be primordial or primordiality is to be first. Per Merriam Webster...

Primordial: first created or developed

1

I would propose antecedence, defined by dictionary.com as “the act of going before”.

  • Good job citing your answer, but your definition: going before does not always imply being first. – Ben Oct 20 '15 at 18:20
0

Tough question, but the noun record suggests being first in something

record noun (BEST)
[C] the ​best or ​fastest ​ever done:

  • Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us can achieve a record in something.

  • Neil Armstrong was a record-holder by being the first person on the moon

  • Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer record-breaking over correctness.

Despite the comments below, the first two examples do fit, the simple fact is that both Bannister and Armstrong did succeed. They are "record-holders" in the sense that they hold the titles for being the first; likewise Joshua Slocum, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the Wright Brothers, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart. So, I'm leaving those two suggestions.


It now appears the OP is really interested in the third example, a pity he failed to mention this in the question, but he has been leaving comments saying that it is his prime concern. The third example is a stretch, if you said the sentence in a terse, half-sarcastic way, it would work. One could use air quotes over record-breaking.

Always wanting to be the first to answer a question, even if you're not sure of the answer isn't a very smart thing to do. I don't really have any experience with this type of behaviour, it's usually the same people who raise their hands first, or in the case of a Q&A website, post an answer first because they do know the answer. But on a Q&A website this type of obsessive behaviour is looked down upon.

So my amended suggestion, with a noun, would be:

  • Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer rep-whoring over correctness.

Related: What's a less offensive substitute for “rep-whores”? The top two answers were: rep-hound and rep-farmer. The fact that the top answer was supplied by a user was first to post an answer just proves my point, users who post/answer first are those who already know the answers... well, most of the time.

  • 2
    I don't think your answer fits in there at all. Roger Bannister and Neil Armstrong were "a record" because they were acknowledged by people as "a success". If they had failed to do it, they would not have been considered as any record. If Neil Armstrong had been killed in the action by accident, he would not have been a record. The next one would have been the record. Furthermore, The word doesn't represent "firstness" over "correctness". They were all first and correct at the same time. It doesn't work. – user140086 Oct 20 '15 at 16:23
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    And in the final example, there's no record being broken, either, so the word choice makes little sense, if any. – timothymh Oct 20 '15 at 17:53
0

I would not be so quick to dismiss "primacy." It's literal meaning is something like "that which comes first," and is somewhat ambiguous on whether that refers to quality or temporality.

primacy |ˈprīməsē| noun 1 the fact of being primary, preeminent, or more important: "the primacy of air power in the modern war."

primary noun 2 earliest in time or order of development

You may also like "preeminence:"

preeminence |prēˈemənəns| noun the fact of surpassing all others; superiority: "the region has never regained the economic preeminence that it once enjoyed."

(source: American Heritage English Dictionary)

  • You probably got a downvote for putting in "primacy" when the question explicitly dismisses it. (I think "preeminence" is actually a very good word, though.) However, you also need to supply your sources; quoting without attribution will get your answer deleted. – Hellion Oct 21 '15 at 20:38
  • I ought to have made a better case for primacy to not be rejected. It may have been dismissed unfairly. But it doesn't matter as I now see I lack the reputation to even submit an answer here. – Slam Oct 22 '15 at 15:52
-1

A breakthrough ?

Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us can achieve a breakthrough in something.

Neil Armstrong made a breakthrough by being the first person on the moon.

It is not great however for the last quiz example

-1

Changing my answer to fit the ever-changing criteria of the question.

Question: What is a noun (or failing that a short phrase) that means 'firstness'?

Prototypicality is a noun that means 'firstness' and can be inserted into each of your example sentences. It is derived from prototype, which Oxford Dictionary defines as "the first, original, or typical form of something; an archetype."

Examples

Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Not many of us can achieve prototypicality in something.

Neil Armstrong exhibited prototypicality by being the first person on the moon.

Some people prefer to answer first in a quiz, even if they get the answer wrong. They prefer prototypicality over correctness.

  • Just rephrase to "they wish to be first". The point is, the noun exists but you need to cater your sentences to it's usage. – moismailzai Oct 21 '15 at 3:44
  • @chaslyfromUK I think you mean dwjohnston answered first. – moismailzai Oct 21 '15 at 3:46
  • @chaslyfromUK You seem confused. Perhaps you're attempting to ask "what is a noun which names 'the state of being first'" -- your example sentences are constructed for such a noun but that is not the question you've asked us. – moismailzai Oct 21 '15 at 3:56
  • @chaslyfromUK and the noun "first" meets that criteria, sir. But clearly that's not what you're after. – moismailzai Oct 21 '15 at 5:58
  • Thanks for your suggestion and your continued efforts. I can see that, in some way, Roger Bannister was a prototype for 'faster than 4 minute runners'. I have never changed my criteria but I have changed my explanation of the criteria to the best of my ability. The most important sentence for me is the one about 'being first in a quiz'. When I look up 'prototypical' in a dictionary it doesn't quite capture what I want. Here is the definition I saw goo.gl/GrvTuW The quiz taker in my example is not intended to be an archetype for all hasty quiz takers, merely to be first in the group. – chasly from UK Oct 21 '15 at 20:09

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