first love

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first love (plural first loves)

  1. (literally) One's first experience of the feeling of romantic love.
    • 1852, Wilkie Collins, chapter 7, in Basil:
      Could this be love?—pure, first love for a shopkeeper's daughter.
    • 1906, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, chapter 10, in Charles Dickens:
      The common things are terrible and startling, death, for instance, and first love.
  2. (by extension) The first person to be the object of one's romantic affection.
    • c. 1867, Anthony Trollope, chapter 29, in The Claverings[1]:
      He thought how he would tell her . . . that his love for her had fallen off through his own unworthiness, and had returned to one who was in all respects less perfect than she, but who in old days, as she well knew, had been his first love.
    • 1907, William Dean Howells, chapter 13, in Through the Eye of the Needle: A Romance:
      [A]fter I made the personal acquaintance of Mr. Thrall's chef, Anatole, I found my affections dividing themselves between him and his lordship's man Robert, my first love.
  3. (idiomatic, by extension) The thing, place, or activity of which one is fondest; one's most fundamental interest or attachment.
    • 1897, Mamie Dickens, chapter 1, in Charles Dickens—My Father as I Recall Him:
      He had a very strong and faithful attachment for places: Chatham, I think, being his first love in this respect.
    • 1952 July 28, “Mergers: Love's Labor Lost”, in Time:
      Even though he made his millions from refrigerators, radios, scalp exercisers, bed coolers and sundry other gadgets, Powel Crosley Jr.'s first love was always the automobile.