While we say "early bird catches the worm" which means whoever arrives first has the best chance of success; some opportunities are only available to the first competitors.

On the opposite end, what is the saying for when "first timers always takes the first hit". Here what i mean is when say for instance government brings in a new policy for the first time of a new format of passport instead of the conventional. The ones who are about to have their renewal will be hit the hardiest as their will be face the immediate consequence of those changes such as during their airport immigration, visa issues for visit to a new country.

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    Note that a term often used for early adopters is "bleeding edge".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 12:59
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    @HotLicks That's a good one - I've always thought it meant something that was incredibly advanced compared to the alternatives, but you've made me realise that the bleeding part could be because it's also potentially fraught. Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 8:45
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    @JohnGo-Soco - Being on the "bleeding edge" is a reference to cutting yourself on the sharp edge. When you deal with advanced technology you tend to get cut.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 23:01
  • That sounds like a pretty good answer to me, then! Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 8:30

7 Answers 7


I think the closest idiom would be 'Jumped the Gun'.

To start something before it is permissible, appropriate, or advisable. The phrase alludes to starting to run in a foot race before the starting gun goes off.

Example: David jumped the gun getting his passport renewed. It is a new format rather than the conventional one. He's bound to face problems at immigaration when he lands in Timbuktu!

Audi killing the electric R8 e-tron is no surprise - but its time will come. Audi jumped the gun on the electric sports car, but once the EV market matures it will get another chance.

  • There is an expression for early producers like Netscape or Atari: "The pioneer is the guy with the arrow in his back." (Or, "up his ass," if you're being crudely emphatic.) But that's not the case you described. Early adopters may be referred to as "guinea pigs." I tend to say "It's easy, the second time you do it," but that's probably just me. You can also blame the perpetrators for the users' troubles: "They're still working out the kinks in the new passport system."
    – remarkl
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 13:29

I don't believe there is an idiom which suits perfectly as an opposite to "the early bird catches the worm."

However, there are some idioms which may be suitable, depending on the context.

Those first in may inadvertently run interference for those who follow, so they have less trouble:

run interference: to deal with problems for someone as they happen

Being first at something may also mean taking the full brunt of opening Pandora's box or opening a can of worms, though people who follow may also take the consequences.


A popular retort to "The early bird gets the worm" is:

The second mouse gets the cheese.

A 1994 usenet post by Ernst Berg is apparently the earliest known use of the phrase.


I would remove any references to "early bird". An early bird often has positive connotations, it means someone who is up at the crack of dawn, a person who wakes up earlier than the majority of people do. In the US, some restaurants offer discounts on early bird dinners, a meal which is served earlier than traditional dinner hours.

I don't think there is a common idiom with the meaning that the OP is looking for, at least, one doesn't spring to mind. But to be absolutely clear, those who are the first to be affected by a new sanction or normative are not called early birds.

1. Have an effect on; make a difference to.
‘The murder rates of the U.S. and U.K. are also affected by differences in the way each counts homicides.’


There is an idiom "at the bleeding edge"—a play on "at the leading edge"—which incorporates the idea that early adopters often don't have an easy time.


The idiom "head first" describes getting into something recklessly, brashly, or thoughtlessly - to jump forward without thinking.

Don't get into that head first. Wait for them to work out any early problems before hand.



When a person has to undergo something newly introduced and to experience its bitter consequences, he or she is like a guinea pig.

A guinea pig (TFD)

If someone is used as a guinea pig, new ideas, methods, or medical treatments are tested on them.

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