What does 'in first for' mean in the following sentence?: (It's a news article title.)

In first for UK, government clears Cuadrilla to frack shale gas site (Source: Reuters)

Now I presume that it roughly means that 'something has happened for the first time'.

But it's written in a strange way, and I can't find anything about 'in first for' on the internet, no dictionary has its meaning.


2 Answers 2


The line you are asking about, as you have stated, is a title of a journalistic piece. It is written in the style of headlinese. So the language is pithy to the point that it does not conform to general English grammar. For example, to frack shale gas site is not grammatical, because the indefinite article a is missing. The grammatical way of saying it should be to frack a shale gas site.

By the same token, in first for is basically short for in the first attempt/operation ever for the UK or in a first. The sentence should read:

In the first operation ever for the UK, government clears Cuadrilla to frack a shale gas site

If you look at the main text of that journalistic piece, you can see it opens with this paragraph that is pretty clear:

Shale gas developer Cuadrilla on Tuesday became the first operator in Britain to receive final consent from the government to frack an onshore horizontal exploration well, paving the way for commercial production.

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    Normally, written out, it would be: In a first for the UK. The lack of the determiner a is what makes it a headline.
    – Lambie
    Jul 26, 2018 at 23:39
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    "A first" is a common usage of "first" as a noun. It means "something that has never happened." You'll often hear the phrase "That's a first!" from someone who has just been made aware of an occurrence that hasn't happened in the past, or, if employing hyperbole, something that just doesn't happen very often. For example, "My brother offered to help me move; that was a first!" might imply that the speaker's brother is normally unwilling to be helpful.
    – bubbleking
    Jul 27, 2018 at 14:09

The sentence is written in "headline English" - no articles or linking words, a compressed summary. In a first for the UK, the Government clears (allows) the Cuadrilla company to frack (obtain gas from shale rock by a fracturing process) at a site (not slide). "A first" means the first time that something happens.

In first for UK, government clears Cuadrilla to frack shale gas site

Reuters story


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