second best


the next to the best in performance, achievement, craftsmanship, etc.

Origin of second best

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50
Related formssec·ond-best, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for second-best

Contemporary Examples of second-best

Historical Examples of second-best

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for second-best



next to the best
come off second best informal to be defeated in competition

noun second best

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

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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.