There are 2 main definitions of second hand in English:

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second hand 1

Pronunciation: /ˈsɛk(ə)nd hand/


An extra hand in some watches and clocks which moves round to indicate the seconds.
Example sentences
  • The man spots another clock, where the second hand has not moved at all.
  • Try positioning yourself in view of a wall clock or use a watch with a second hand or timer.
  • I woke up in the hospital at three in the morning and I could see the second hand on the clock wasn't moving.
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There are 2 main definitions of second hand in English:

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second-hand 2


1(Of goods) having had a previous owner; not new: a second-hand car
More example sentences
  • The home was furnished with second-hand goods and the children had hand-me down clothes although they always had shoes from Clarks.
  • When this first began 15 years ago, the toys received were often of fairly poor quality; second-hand goods ready to be thrown out.
  • Most of the items are in good enough condition, considering that they are second-hand goods.
1.1Denoting a shop where second-hand goods can be bought: a second-hand bookshop
More example sentences
  • I'm looking forward to miles of walking along the water and I love browsing through the second-hand stores and thrift shops in the area.
  • Keep an eye out for it in second-hand shops and book sales.
  • Actual dance costumes, complete with glitter and sequins, often end up in second-hand shops.
2(Of information or experience) accepted on another’s authority and not from original investigation: second-hand knowledge of her country
More example sentences
  • A poet must experience, rather than simulate reality or rely on second-hand information.
  • Mind you that salt should be taken, as second-hand information and college statistics might not be enough.
  • So it's really kind of an assessment of second-hand information, you know?


1On the basis that something has had a previous owner: tips on the pitfalls to avoid when buying second-hand
More example sentences
  • The biggest-selling MPVs in the UK are the Citroën Picasso and Renault Mégane Scénic, both of which can be bought second-hand for well within your budget.
  • The van was bought second-hand for £3,000, two years ago.
  • The vehicle was bought second-hand in 1997 by islanders but withdrawn from service three months ago when a door was damaged.
2On the basis of what others have said; indirectly: I was discounting anything I heard second-hand
More example sentences
  • The hospitality I received cannot be experienced second-hand.
  • I'm very mistrustful about it, because just everyone knows that when you get things second-hand, the problems that there are in the translation are great.
  • The challenge of science is to overcome the constraints of our neurological wetware and understand a physical world that we know only second-hand and incompletely.


at second hand

By hearsay rather than direct observation or experience.
Example sentences
  • The palace consequently represents an injection of French Renaissance aesthetic taken pure and from the source, rather than mediated at second hand through the observations of visitors.
  • Newman's fans among critics are either people who knew him well, worked with him, or other people who have had the experience at second hand through what these critics have written.
  • She had grown tired of experiencing life at second hand.
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