I understand that both "erste" and "zunächst" mean first. Is there any difference in meaning or usage between them?

  • 1
    Have a look into your dictionary - This might help. Especially look at what type of word (adjective, adverb) each of them is.
    – tofro
    Jul 3, 2017 at 19:04
  • There is a subtle difference that a dictionary might not explain. Zunächst is a takeoff on "next" and means "first" going forward. Erst means "first" in a series that can start at any time. Voting to reopen.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 8, 2017 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


First of all the grammatical usage of both words is different: This means the position in the sentence etc. is different.

The meaning differs the following way:

The word "erste" indicates that something is or happens first in an order of multiple things.


Today they played 20 songs in the radio. "I like Stackexchange" was the first song they played.

Das Lied "I like Stackexchange" war das erste Lied, das gespielt wurde.

The word "zunächst" is used to indicate that something happens but something different happens before.


We will play the song "I love German language" in a few Minutes but first we will play "I like Stackexchange".

... aber zunächst werden wir "I like Stackexchange" spielen.

In many cases both words can be used.

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