In pre-1918 Russian orhography, female and neuter adjectives in pl. nom. had endings -iя, -ыя: новыя вещи, голубыя озёра, but новые наряды, голубые киты.

Pluralia tantum require some etymologic background to put the adjective in right gender: острыя ножницы, новыя сѣни but французскiе духи.

Adverbs originated from adjectives follow this rule too, however the noun the were governed by is usually lost.

I'm interested in adverb впервые. It is clearly originated from the phrase в первые … with some noun, but I failed to find its etymology.

Google Books search suggests 55 entries with впервыя and 123 entries with впервые between 1870 and 1916.

So I wonder: what was the right form of the adverb впервые (or its etymology)?

  • well, we still have в первый раз expression, which is more common and has roughly the same meaning.
    – permeakra
    Sep 5, 2012 at 20:28
  • @permeakra: I'm pretty aware of this expression, thanks.
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 5, 2012 at 20:49
  • 1
    @Anixx: if мы only included females, it would be мы первыя, otherwise мы первые. In 3rd pl., the pronoun would change too: они первые (male or mixed) vs. онѣ первыя (female only)
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 9, 2012 at 10:26
  • 1
    I, too, am curious. Just FYI, вещи is not spelled with a ѣ.
    – user6233
    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:53
  • 2
    @NikolayErshov "Слово вещь по естеству своему вѣщь; но древнія невѣжи Ѣ въ Е превратили; такъ уже етому и быть." Сумароков. Примечание о правописании
    – Matt
    Nov 5, 2015 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


I don't know the answer to your question, but I have a hypothesis you may want to consider.

Maybe there was no noun in "впервые", maybe it was a combination of the preposition "въ" and the word "пьрво"?

I've looked for examples in Sreznevsky's dictionary (compiled in the end of XIX, made on the base of writings dating XVI century or earlier). And here is what I found.

The dictionary tells that the preposition въ could be used to designate that something happened in some time, and here comes one of the examples:

А татя в первые продати противу поличного, а въ другiе уличатъ, продадутъ его не жалуя, а уличатъ въ третьие ино повѣсити. Уставная грамота великого князя Василия Дмитриевича двинянам, 1397г.

Since it is an example from a preposition's entry, I think that "впервые" might have developed from a combination of the preposition "въ" and the noun "пьрво".

I haven't found any noun "пьрво" in the dictionary, there was only an adverb "пьрво = перво" that meant "раньше, прежде". However, I've found another example in the entry about "въ". I believe, "пьрво" acts as a noun there:

Въ том градѣ иже в то перво столникъ и игуменъ Iеванъ въсхотѣ сътворити гистерноу. Житие преподобного Федора, игумена Сикейского монастыря, XVI век.

However, it is not clear what is the meaning of "перво" here. Something like "(earlier) time", maybe. Or it might be just the first part of the word "первостолникъ", written separately. But in this case I don't know how to translate "въ то". Can it be "тогда"?

  • It could of course originate from a noun, but in your exceprt from Двинская правда it's certainly a full form adjective, with some other noun omitted. I wonder what could it be.
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 8, 2012 at 10:15
  • I don't think that I can find the whole text of Двинская Правда.
    – Olga
    Sep 8, 2012 at 11:57
  • books.google.ru/… , page 8
    – Quassnoi
    Sep 8, 2012 at 19:18
  • In your source, впервые, въдругiе and вътретьие are clearly written together and there is no previous context that can explain these as adjectives. Which means that they probably were adverbs already back then.
    – Olga
    Sep 8, 2012 at 20:04

Положим, что ткну пальцем в небо, но всё же рискну предположить, что впервые это всего лишь в первые [ряды], по аналогии с вперворяд, вдругорядь и т.д.

Если же учесть и форму женского рода рядь (есть у Даля), то становится возможным и впервыя.

  • Ну, это довольно смелое предположение если честно, но остроумное )
    – shabunc
    Nov 5, 2015 at 21:23

All you need is just to find some pre-reform sources, and better to find some scan copies. For example here or a least re-typed books like here

In this PDF document (from the 2nd mentioned source) we can find a word "впервые"

Вы мыслить и писать затѣяли впервые
Съ Бѣлинскимъ: до него былъ вамъ дремучій мракъ.
Прекрасно! У меня жъ учители другіе,
И до него еще я мыслилъ кое-какъ.
П.А. Вяземский 1861

  • As it was pointed earlier, both spellings "впервые" and "впервыя" were acceptable in 19th century. The question is what the reason behind that.
    – Matt
    Nov 6, 2015 at 7:26
  • @user4419802 Hm.. in this case I guess there was just one reason, the same one as today: "договоры" or "договора", "профессоры" or "профессора" or, say, "мой кофе" or "моё кофе" :)
    – Roman
    Nov 6, 2015 at 7:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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