Denotation vs. Connotation

false start

Sports. a premature start by one or more of the contestants, as in a swimming or track event, necessitating calling the field back to start again.
a failure to begin an undertaking successfully.
Origin of false start


[fawls-stahrt] /ˈfɔlsˈstɑrt/
verb (used without object), Sports.
to leave the starting line or position too early and thereby necessitate repeating the signal to begin a race.
1805-15 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for false start
Historical Examples
  • No cry of false start rang after them, and they saw that their masculine rivals were in close pursuit.

    Madge Morton's Secret Amy D. V. Chalmers
  • It is very odd how everything has gone wrong with us since that false start.

    Madonna Mary Mrs. Oliphant
  • He walked the floor jerkily, made a false start or so and then brought up before me with an air of decision.

    Paradise Garden George Gibbs
  • "false start," this man said aloud as Jeremiah Pamflett entered.

    Miser Farebrother (vol 2 of 3) Benjamin Leopold Farjeon
  • The result of the match was unaccountable to all present, and Richard's friends unanimously pressed him to plead a false start.

  • It was the first time they had met since their encounter in the forest after Longmore's false start for Brussels.

    Madame de Mauves Henry James
  • "I wouldn't have this double handicap make a false start to-night for a million," he said.

    The Four Million

    O. Henry
  • Ingraham, unfortunately, had to be put back a yard at the line for a false start, and could not overcome the handicap.

  • But he subsequently recognized that this was a false start, and began afresh from another basis.

  • He was more than disappointed at the upshot of his wild speculations, and in himself for the false start that he had made.

    The Shadow of the Rope E. W. Hornung
Idioms and Phrases with false start

false start

A wrong beginning, as in After several false starts she finally managed to write the first chapter. The term originated in racing, where it refers to beginning a race before the starting signal has been given. The expression was soon transferred to other kinds of failed beginning. [ Early 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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