of the first magnitude


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of the first magnitude

Of major importance or significance. You have to study Shakespeare because he is a poet of the first magnitude. We need to close the highway immediately—this is an accident of the first magnitude.
See also: first, magnitude, of
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

first magnitude/order/water, of the

The best; of the highest quality. Magnitude refers to the grading of the brightness of stars, the first being the brightest. It has been transferred to other matters since at least the seventeenth century. “Thou liar of the first magnitude,” wrote William Congreve in 1695 (Love for Love, 2.2). Water refers to a system for grading diamonds for their color or luster (the latter being akin to the shininess of water), the best quality again being termed the first. This grading system is no longer used, but the transfer to other matters has survived since the early nineteenth century. Sir Walter Scott’s journal has, “He was a . . . swindler of the first water (1826). Order, which here refers to rank, is probably more often heard today than either of the others. It dates from the nineteenth century. The OED cites “A diplomatist of the first order,” appearing in a journal of 1895. A synonymous term, first rate, originated from the time the Royal Navy’s warships were rated on a scale of one to six, based on their size and the weight of the weapons they carried. By the 1700s this term, along with second-rate, third-rate, and so on, was later transferred to general use, most often as a hyphenated adjective. For example, “He’s definitely a second-rate poet, nowhere near as good as his father.”
See also: first, magnitude, of, order
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
The first two were among the conquests of the suave poet-playwright De Acosta, a lesbian gladiator of the first magnitude; the latter was Bankhead's all-purpose companion.
However, one luminous star of the first magnitude did slip into Toronto almost unnoticed to add lustre to that inaugural year--Jeanne Moreau.
They said he had created the answer to an age-old problem and that "it was a time-and-labor-saving device of the first magnitude."
Opening the gate while failing to close off a tunnel leading to the centre terrace, was "a blunder of the first magnitude".
In fact Luca Gaurico referred to Jupiter as Phaeton in his description of the horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro.(34) In addition, the flash of Jupiter's thunderbolt in the fresco strikes the tip of the River Eridanus where the great star Acarnar, a star of the first magnitude, had the astrological nature of Jupiter.
The brightest twenty were of the first magnitude; those somewhat dimmer were second magnitude, and so on, until sixth magnitude stars were just barely visible.
1742-31 became a Star of the first Magnitude, and was called GARRICK.'(3) (1) George Selwyn and His Contemporaries, ed.
A professional and financial risk for Smith, the bridge had no precedent anywhere and was a technical achievement of the first magnitude.
Their tests probably show that an American first strike would result in an even greater disparity between each side's "ensemble military capability" to respond, so it is no wonder they consider Star Wars an offensive threat of the first magnitude.
Speaking of congratulations, heaps of praise are due Nes Jardin for putting up an artistic evening of the first magnitude.
The fact of the matter is that 36,000 people are killed with guns every year in this country and the burgeoning rate of gun violence constitutes a public health crisis of the first magnitude. The victims, moreover, are all too often children -- 2,694 children and teens died from gun violence in 2010 alone.
For Western countries to side with those who question Israel's legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel's vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defense of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.