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Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English erste, from Old English ǣresta (first), from Proto-Germanic *airistaz (earliest, first), equivalent to ere +‎ -est. Cognate with North Frisian eerst, ærst (first), West Frisian earst (first), Dutch eerste (first), German erste (first).


erst (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) First.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English erst, arst, erest, from Old English ǣrest (first, erst, at first, before all), from Proto-Germanic *airist (erst). Cognate with Scots erst (erst), Dutch eerst.


erst (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) First of all, before (some other specified thing).
    • 1567, Arthur Golding, Ovid's Metamorphoses, book 2, line 691:
      Consider what I erst have been and what thou seest me now:
  2. (obsolete) Sooner (than); before.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter xxviij, in Le Morte Darthur, book X:
      Thenne he sente the varlet ageyne and bad hym telle Kyng Mark that I wille come as soone as I am hole / for erste I maye doo hym noo good / Thenne Kynge Mark hadde his ansuer / There with came Elyas and badde the Kynge yelde vp the castel
  3. (archaic, poetic) Formerly, once, erstwhile.
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, Sonnet 12:
      When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
      Which erst from heat did canopy the herd
Derived terms[edit]




See the numeral erster.


  • IPA(key): [ʔeːɐ̯st]
  • (file)
  • (file)



  1. first, at first
  2. only (with time)
    Sie ist erst 28 Jahre alt.
    She is only 28 years old.
  3. not until, not for (with reference to a period of time)
    Ich fliege erst nächstes Jahr in Urlaub.
    I'm not going on vacation until next year.
    Mein Bruder kommt erst in drei Wochen an.
    My brother's not arriving for three weeks.

Usage notes[edit]

  • With reference to time periods and moments, the opposite of erst is schon. Erst emphasizes how long it is until something happens, whereas schon how soon. Thus:
    erst in drei Wochen = "not for three weeks" [and that seems so far away]
    schon in drei Wochen = "in only three weeks" [and I'm glad I don't have to wait any longer]
  • With reference to ages and the like, erst emphasizes how small/young the age seems, while schon emphasizes how large/old the age seems. Thus:
    Sie ist erst 28 Jahre alt  = "She's only 28" [and yet she has so many accomplishments/she looks so much older, etc.]
    Sie ist schon 28 Jahre alt = "She's already 28" [but it seems like only yesterday that she was a little girl]


Related terms[edit]