Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What are differences among 第一, 一番 and 第一番, all of which seem to mean "the first" in English? Are any of them more suitable for some specific scenarios than the others (e.g. 安全第一 but 世界で一番)?

share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted
  • 第一番, 第一, 一番: noun 'number one'. 一 still retains its meaning as a number, so it can be replaced by the number character: 第1番, 第1, 1番.

    'symphony no. 1'

  • 第一, 第1 can be used as a prefix.

    'symphony no. 1'

  • 第一: noun 'has priority'. 一 does not retain the meaning 'one', and cannot be replaced by '1'.

    'safety is the priority'

  • 一番, preferrably written in hiragana as いちばん: adverb 'most'. ー does not retain the meaning 'one', and cannot be replaced by '1'.

    'the {b-/tall-}est (building) in the world'

  • 第一, preferrably written in hiragana as だいいち: adverb 'in the first place'. ー does not retain the meaning 'one', and cannot be replaced by '1'.

    'the teacher has not come yet in the first place'

share|improve this answer
How to differentiate 第一 that is "noun 'number one'" and "noun 'has priority'" since both are used as nouns? – Lukman Sep 11 '11 at 0:48
@Lukman 'has priority' is a nominal predicate. 'number one' can be a nominal predicate or an argument. – user458 Sep 11 '11 at 0:50
一番【ひとつがい】 FTW!!! – istrasci Sep 11 '11 at 4:34

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.