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Coined between 1525 and 1535 from first +‎ -ly.[1]


  • IPA(key): /ˈfɜɹstli/
  • (file)


firstly (not comparable)

  1. (formal) In the first place; before anything else; first.
    • 1992, Rudolf M[athias] Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page vii:
      Firstly, I continue to base most species treatments on personally collected material, rather than on herbarium plants. [] Secondly, I continue to base my concepts on intensive study of a limited suite of collections, rather than superficial study of every packet that comes to hand.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Whether it is proper to use "firstly", rather than "first", has often been disputed.
    • Beginning in the early 19th century, some have argued against the use of "firstly", advocating the sequence: "First", "secondly", "thirdly", ....
    • The usage of "firstly" is also deprecated by some modern style guides.[2] The Chicago Manual of Style further recommends that all such -ly forms be avoided, and that list items begin only with "first", "second", and so forth.[3]
    • Other authorities disagree.
      • The American Heritage Dictionary comments:
        It is well established that either first or firstly can be used to begin an enumeration: Our objectives are, first (or firstly), to recover from last year's slump.[4]
      • The Oxford English Dictionary notes the dispute but does not pass judgment: "many writers prefer first, even though closely followed by secondly, thirdly, etc."[5]
    • "Firstly" may appear more formal than "first" and is often recommended for the formal enumeration of arguments.[6]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ firstly”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  2. ^ International English Usage
  3. ^ Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003, →ISBN
  4. ^ “firstly”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2000, →ISBN.
  5. ^ "Firstly" in the Oxford English Dictionary, online edition (subscription required)
  6. ^ “Writing in a Formal Style for Academic Purposes”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name)[1], 2008 October 21 (last accessed), archived from the original on 30 April 2008