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second best

the next to the best in performance, achievement, craftsmanship, etc.
Origin of second best
late Middle English
late Middle English word dating back to 1400-50
Related forms
second-best, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for second-best
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Oh, father,” cried Polly in alarm, “these are my second-best boots!

  • I had the feeling that I had come off second-best in the encounter.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Did you ever feel like arguing with a gentleman when you had on your second-best clothes and no ruffle?

    John Splendid Neil Munro
  • She was in sober, every-day serge now, and pulling on her second-best cloak.

    Jane Journeys On Ruth Comfort Mitchell
  • I kept a detaining arm on Peter's sleeve,—his second-best sleeve.

    The Worn Doorstep Margaret Sherwood
  • In his previous contests with the wily Pole he had always come off second-best.

    The Shadow of the Czar John R. Carling
British Dictionary definitions for second-best


next to the best
(informal) come off second best, to be defeated in competition
an inferior alternative
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Idioms and Phrases with second-best

second best

Also, second class . Next after the first in rank or quality, inferior to the best, as in We aren't satisfied with being second best in sales , or This hotel is obviously second class . The first term dates from the first half of the 1400s, the variant from about 1800. Also see come off , def. 2; second class
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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