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I know the literal meaning of 头, but I'm confused about what it mean and what it's function is when it is placed in this structure.

头一次遇到 I wrote is not a complete sentence, but 一次遇到 here means the first time (I) met....

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    means 第一次遇到, 头 means from the start to count – Jacob Aug 26 '17 at 15:15
  • "现代汉语词典",头:(8)第一:~等|~号(9)领头的:次序居先的:~车|~马|~羊(10)用在数量词前面,表示次序在前的:~趟|~一遍|~半本|~几个|~三天(=前面的三天) – user6065 Aug 26 '17 at 15:31
  • also note synonyms: 首次,初次,第一次,"antonym" 其次 – user6065 Aug 27 '17 at 13:03
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头 not only means 'head'.It also means 'the first order',also means 'leader' , 'the first class','the beginning'etc. Because(actually my guess) in Chinese culture, head is the first and important part of the human body.

You can also say"头三个人",which means, the first three people. Another example is '头排',which means 'the first row'. Here '一' is missing because generally '头'and '一' refers to the same meaning. You can replace '头'by'第'sometimes. e.p. you can say either '头一次遇到' or '第一次遇到'. BUT! '头三个人' and '第三个人' have different meanings. '第三个人' means the third person.

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  • Well, you can say 头一排 and the same as 头一次遇到, where you can also say 头次遇到 or 初次遇到. 头三个 and 前三个 mean the same. – dan Aug 26 '17 at 20:30
  • Yes, absolutely.. Just don't want to repeat too many similar examples :) – Ran Aug 27 '17 at 14:53

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