The Grammar GuideSpellingWhat is the difference between 'fist' and 'first'?

What is the difference between 'fist' and 'first'?

What is the difference between 'fist' and 'first'?

The words fist and first are often confused because they look similar. Do you know the difference?

First means preceding all others of a series or kind; the ordinal of one; earliest when used as an adjective.

Fist means hand with the fingers clenched or curled inward when used as a noun.

A good way to remember the difference is First has an R.

Out of the two words, 'first' is the most common. It appears about 178 times more frequently than 'fist'.



It's easy to mix up words that have similar spellings like fist and first.

First is an adjective. It is the ordinal form of number one. It means "preceding all others, primary, or earliest."

Fist is a noun that means "the hand when the fingers are clenched or curled inward." It can also be a verb that means "to grab something with a fist."

Is it 'an iron first' or 'an iron fist'?

The correct expresssion is 'an iron fist.' These phrases are often confused because they are spelled similarly.

Should I use 'first things first' or 'fist things fist'?

The correct expression is 'first things first'. These phrases are often confused because they are easy to mistype.

Some synonyms of fist are: paw, clutch, clench fist, hand, hold.

Some synonyms of first are: front, primary, earliest, one.

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The definitions in this article were adapted from Wiktionary.

Dictionary Definition of fistDictionary Definition of first

Examples of fist in a sentence

Reason and guile usually worked, and if they didn't, a fist usually turned the tide.
- The heart of Devin MacKade by Nora Roberts
We got to Zeus’s Fist, a huge pile of boulders in the middle of the west woods.
- The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
C. B. Graham—The patriarch ruled his family with an iron fist.
- Secret Weapon Spouse by B. J. Daniels
This thing was like fishnet with holes so big he could almost stick his fist through it.
- Breakfast in Bed by Robin Kaye
We have to get out of here,” I yelled as I banged on the door with my fist.
- Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams; Cathy Clamp

Examples of first in a sentence

For the first time, she seemed to notice the black smoke and ringing fire alarms.
- The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
Cassie Clark O’Brien—The first ex-wife has a killer of a secret she must keep.
- Mystery Bride by B. J. Daniels
First Edition: October 2008
- The Replacement Child by Christine Barber
Slaves entered first, wrestling a rack of bells and cymbals through the sand.
- The Rise and Fall of a Dragonking by Lynn Abbey
Readers inclined to seek help and reassurance in reason would perhaps read the essay first.
- Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Test yourself

Choose the missing word in each question.

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