Alternative formsEdit


Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English erste, from Old English ǣresta (first), from Proto-West Germanic *airist (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 2Edit

From Middle English erst, arst, erest, from Old English ǣrest (first, erst, at first, before all), from Proto-West Germanic *airist(ō) (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, “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 termsEdit




See the numeral erster.


  • IPA(key): /eːrst/, [ʔeːɐ̯st], [ʔɛɐ̯st]
  • (file)
  • (file)



  1. first, at first
  2. only (with progress, accomplishments or the present time)
    Sie ist erst 28 Jahre alt.
    She is only 28 years old.
    Es ist erst halb zehn.
    It is only half past nine.
  3. not until, not for, not before (with reference to a point or period of time in the future)
    Ich bin erst nächsten Monat in Urlaub.
    I'm not on vacation until next month.
    Mein Bruder kommt erst in drei Wochen an.
    My brother's not arriving for three weeks.
  4. only, as recently as (with reference to the past)
    Er ist erst gestern gegangen.
    He left only yesterday.
    Er ist erst seit zwei Tagen da.
    He has only been here for two days.
  5. short for erstmal
    Es ist kalt im Süden. Und im Norden erst!
    It is cold in the South. And especially in the North.

Usage notesEdit

  • With reference to time periods and moments, the opposite of erst is schon. Erst emphasizes how long it is until something happens or how recently it has happened, whereas schon how soon in the future or far in the past. 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 progress and the like, erst emphasizes how young or short, while schon emphasizes how old or long. 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 only yesterday that she was a little girl]


Related termsEdit

Further readingEdit

  • erst” in Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache

Old FrisianEdit


  • IPA(key): /ˈeːrst/, [ˈɛːrst]



  1. Alternative form of ērest


  • Bremmer, Rolf H. (2009) An Introduction to Old Frisian: History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN