adjective, fast·er, fast·est.

  1. moving or able to move, operate, function, or take effect quickly; quick; swift; rapid: a fast horse; a fast pain reliever; a fast thinker.
  2. done in comparatively little time; taking a comparatively short time: a fast race; fast work.
  3. (of time)
    1. indicating a time in advance of the correct time, as of a clock.
    2. noting or according to daylight-saving time.
  4. adapted to, allowing, productive of, or imparting rapid movement: a hull with fast lines; one of the fastest pitchers in baseball.
  5. characterized by unrestrained conduct or lack of moral conventions, especially in sexual relations; wanton; loose: Some young people in that era were considered fast, if not downright promiscuous.
  6. characterized by hectic activity: leading a fast life.
  7. resistant: acid-fast.
  8. firmly fixed in place; not easily moved; securely attached.
  9. held or caught firmly, so as to be unable to escape or be extricated: an animal fast in a trap.
  10. firmly tied, as a knot.
  11. closed and made secure, as a door, gate, or shutter.
  12. such as to hold securely: to lay fast hold on a thing.
  13. firm in adherence; loyal; devoted: fast friends.
  14. permanent, lasting, or unchangeable: a fast color; a hard and fast rule.
  15. Informal.
    1. (of money, profits, etc.) made quickly or easily and sometimes deviously: He earned some fast change helping the woman with her luggage.
    2. cleverly quick and manipulative in making money: a fast operator when it comes to closing a business deal.
  16. Photography.
    1. (of a lens) able to transmit a relatively large amount of light in a relatively short time.
    2. (of a film) requiring a relatively short exposure time to attain a given density.
  17. Horse Racing.
    1. (of a track condition) completely dry.
    2. (of a track surface) very hard.

adverb, fast·er, fast·est.

  1. quickly, swiftly, or rapidly.
  2. in quick succession: Events followed fast upon one another to the crisis.
  3. tightly; firmly: to hold fast.
  4. soundly: fast asleep.
  5. in a wild or dissipated way.
  6. ahead of the correct or announced time.
  7. Archaic. close; near: fast by.


  1. a fastening for a door, window, or the like.

  1. play fast and loose. play(def 80).
  2. pull a fast one, Informal. to play an unfair trick; practice deceit: He tried to pull a fast one on us by switching the cards.


  1. acting or moving or capable of acting or moving quickly; swift
  2. accomplished in or lasting a short timefast work; a fast visit
  3. (prenominal) adapted to or facilitating rapid movementthe fast lane of a motorway
  4. requiring rapidity of action or movementa fast sport
  5. (of a clock, etc) indicating a time in advance of the correct time
  6. given to an active dissipated life
  7. of or characteristic of such activitya fast life
  8. not easily moved; firmly fixed; secure
  9. firmly fastened, secured, or shut
  10. steadfast; constant (esp in the phrase fast friends)
  11. sport (of a playing surface, running track, etc) conducive to rapid speed, as of a ball used on it or of competitors playing or racing on it
  12. that will not fade or change colour readilya fast dye
    1. proof against fadingthe colour is fast to sunlight
    2. (in combination)washfast
  13. photog
    1. requiring a relatively short time of exposure to produce a given densitya fast film
    2. permitting a short exposure timea fast shutter
  14. cricket (of a bowler) characteristically delivering the ball rapidly
  15. informal glib or unreliable; deceptivea fast talker
  16. archaic sound; deepa fast sleep
  17. informal a deceptive or unscrupulous trick (esp in the phrase pull a fast one)
  18. fast worker a person who achieves results quickly, esp in seductions


  1. quickly; rapidly
  2. soundly; deeplyfast asleep
  3. firmly; tightly
  4. in quick succession
  5. in advance of the correct timemy watch is running fast
  6. in a reckless or dissipated way
  7. fast by or fast beside archaic close or hard by; very near
  8. play fast and loose informal to behave in an insincere or unreliable manner


  1. archery (said by the field captain to archers) stop shooting!


  1. (intr) to abstain from eating all or certain foods or meals, esp as a religious observance


    1. an act or period of fasting
    2. (as modifier)a fast day

Old English fæst “firmly fixed, steadfast, secure, enclosed,” probably from Proto-Germanic *fastuz (cf. Old Frisian fest, Old Norse fastr, Dutch vast, German fest), from PIE root *past- “firm” (cf. Sanskrit pastyam “dwelling place”).

The adverb meaning “quickly, swiftly” was perhaps in Old English, or from Old Norse fast, either way developing from the sense of “firmly, strongly, vigorously” (cf. to run hard means to run fast; also compare fast asleep), or perhaps from the notion of a runner who “sticks” close to whatever he is chasing.

The sense of “living an unrestrained life” (usually of women) is from 1746 (fast living is from 1745). Fast buck recorded from 1947; fast food is first attested 1951. Fast-forward first recorded 1948. Fast lane is by 1966; the fast track originally was in horse-racing (1934); figurative sense by 1960s. To fast talk someone (v.) is recorded by 1946.


Old English fæstan “to fast” (as a religious duty), from Proto-Germanic *fastejan (cf. Old Frisian festia, Old High German fasten, German fasten, Old Norse fasta), from the same root as fast (adj.).

The original meaning was “hold firmly,” and the sense evolution is via “firm control of oneself,” to “holding to observance” (cf. Gothic fastan “to keep, observe,” also “to fast”). Presumably the whole group is a Germanic translation of Medieval Latin observare “to fast.” Related: Fasted; fasting.


Old English fæstan, festen, or Old Norse fasta; from the root of fast (v.).

In addition to the idioms beginning with fast

  • fast and furious
  • fast and loose
  • fast buck
  • fast lane
  • fast track

also see:

  • get nowhere (fast)
  • hard and fast
  • pull a fast one
  • stand one’s ground (fast)
  • thick and fast

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