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1. In a sporting event, a situation in which one player or team begins before the official signal has been given. The team was issued a penalty by the referee after the false start.
2. An unsuccessful attempt to begin something. After several false starts, Gina was finally able to make some progress in writing her term paper.
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]
(make) a false ˈstartan attempt to begin something that is not successful: After a few false starts, I finally managed to work the fax machine. ♢ He made a few false starts early on in his acting career, but then found success with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In sport, a false start is a situation when a competitor in a race starts before the official signal has been given.