The Grammarphobia Blog

An annual exam

Q: Is it ever correct to use the term “first annual”?

A: I see the problem you have with this expression: the word “annual” seems unnecessary.

But I think “first annual” makes a certain amount of sense. Calling an event the “first annual” whatever lets people know two things: (1) this is the first time the event has been held, and (2) the intention is that subsequently it will be held every year.

For what it’s worth, the expression has been with us for quite some time. Here’s a 1796 citation from the Oxford English Dictionary: “Report of the Board of Health, at the first annual Meeting, May 27.” I imagine I could find even older references if I did some more poking around.

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