at first: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘at first’ mean?

The idiom "at first" means in the beginning or initially.

Idiom Explorer

Deciphering the Essence

The idiom "at first" is a commonly used expression in the English language. It is typically used to describe the initial stages or the earliest point of a particular situation, event, or relationship. The exact origins of this idiom are uncertain, but it has naturally emerged as a useful linguistic tool to convey the nuances and complexities of these early encounters.

In its literal sense, "at first" simply denotes the very beginning or the earliest moment of something. It implies the starting point of an experience or an interaction and emphasizes the initial impressions or observations. This straightforward definition serves as the foundation for the figurative meaning of the idiom.

Figuratively, "at first" is often used to describe a person's initial perception or understanding of a situation, which may change or evolve over time. It highlights the distinction between one's initial reaction and a more informed perspective acquired through further experience or reflection. The idiom can convey a sense of surprise, uncertainty, or even confusion when one's assumptions or expectations are challenged or proven incorrect.

Categorize the origin and meaning based on initial reaction.

Furthermore, the idiom "at first" is closely related to the concept of first impressions. It recognizes the significance of these initial encounters and acknowledges their potential impact on subsequent perceptions and judgments. This idiom suggests that one's first impression may not always accurately reflect the reality or true nature of a person or situation. It encourages individuals to be open-minded, curious, and willing to reassess their initial opinions.

Additionally, there are several related idioms that convey a similar meaning to "at first." These idioms include "in the first place," "first of all," "at first blush," "first off," and "from the get-go." Each of these idioms emphasizes the idea of something happening or being considered initially. While they may differ slightly in tone or emphasis, they all convey the notion of a beginning or an initial point.

However, it's important to note that these idioms are not interchangeable with "at first." Instead, they serve to complement and expand upon the overall meaning and usage of "at first." For example, "in the first place" is often used to introduce or emphasize the initial reason or cause of something. "First of all" is commonly used to prioritize or enumerate the initial points of a discussion. "At first blush" refers to the initial, superficial impression or appearance of something. "First off" is an informal way of indicating the initial step or action. "From the get-go" conveys the idea of something happening or being present right from the beginning.

The usage of these related idioms adds depth and variety to the language, allowing individuals to express different shades of meaning and convey a range of emotions. They all contribute to a better understanding of the initial stages and moments, highlighting the dynamic nature of language and human interaction.

The idiom "at first" captures the significance of initial impressions and the potential for evolving perspectives. It serves as a reminder that our initial judgments may not always be accurate or complete. The idiom invites us to remain open to new information, experiences, and insights that can shape our understanding of the world around us. While the exact origins of this idiom may remain unknown, its usage and meaning continue to evolve, highlighting the ever-changing nature of language and human interaction.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "at first" can be used in a sentence:

1. At first, I was unsure about trying sushi, but after trying it once, I became a fan.

2. She seemed cold and distant at first, but as we got to know each other, she opened up and became more friendly.

3. The movie was a bit confusing at first, but as the plot unfolded, everything started to make sense.

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