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Actually, I'm not even sure if the "second-last" is the correct term. Here is how I would use it:

Go down the hallway, it's the second-last door on your right.

which I want to describe the door that is immediately next to the last door.

What are other ways to describe it?
Can I say, e.g., next-last?

Also, how about the one that next to second-last? Can I say third-last?

EDIT: broadening the usage, can I say "this is the next-best choice"? Are there any other ways to express it?


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Easy answer- yes :) –  relaxing Apr 18 '14 at 17:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I agree with @MaulikV's answer that "second-to-last" is a natural way to describe it; "next-to-last" would also be perfectly normal and possibly even more common.

Other ways to describe it would be to say "last-but-one" or something like "6th out of 7."

To answer your "broadened usage" question, yes, you can go from best to next-best or second-best; in these cases, the preposition to is not required (indeed, it must be omitted).

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Thank you for your comprehensive answer, Hellion. Maybe you want to move the controversy of whether "second-to-last" is the same as "next-to-last" to the comment section for a clear answer, as most people disagree with the argument. –  xpt Apr 18 '14 at 22:18
Fair enough... There are some people out there who believe that "second-to-last" is not the same as "next-to-last". (I, and I think most people, disagree with them, but I know they're out there, having argued this point with them at least once.) In their minds the final three spots would go "second-to-last, next-to-last, last." –  Hellion Apr 19 '14 at 2:49
  • The last room is the ultimate room.
  • The next-to-last room is the penultimate room.
  • The next-to-next-to-last room is antepenultimate room.
  • The next-to-next-to-next-to-last room is the preantepenultimate room.

You do have to be careful with context though, as ultimate could also be taken as the "best" choice. The ultimate vacation would be the best vacation, not the worst.

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No one talks like that. –  relaxing Apr 18 '14 at 17:20
I don't think it's common, but penultimate comes in handy for exactly the situation asked about. –  Todd Apr 18 '14 at 17:38
@relaxing, I have had occasion to say antepenultimate, but I've never tried to load any more prefixes on than that. –  Hellion Apr 18 '14 at 17:41
Do people say penultimate best? –  xpt Apr 18 '14 at 22:29
@xpt - Both second best and next best work, but neither "ultimate best" nor "penultimate best" work. –  Martin F Apr 18 '14 at 22:57

You may go for second-to-last. Note, the to is added there.

The single word for that is: penultimate (but I agree with relaxing!)

penultimate - occurring immediately before the last one

Just a concern, if you are describing the rooms in a series, aren't they numbered?

The edit after OP's comment:

Since you described the scenario where the rooms are not numbered and even if they are, how to say it? I think it's all about lessening the efforts to find the exact room, isn't it?.

Now, suppose if you 20 rooms in a row, I'd prefer telling him the 6th room on your right over X-to-last. The finder does not have to go to the last room and come backward. Instead, he'll start counting and stop right in front of the 5th room! This way, we save his efforts of finding non numbered or numbered room. Note that as the order of the room number gets closer to 20, our term penultimate, third-to-last comes into the picture.

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"you said immediately next to last; what you mean? " I meant next-to-last. The immediately was just to emphasize. –  xpt Apr 18 '14 at 17:33
@xpt The word in concern is next (bolded) and not immediately! That's because next is moving further - left to right or in such order. –  Maulik V Apr 18 '14 at 17:36
Since there is nothing after the last, "Next to last" is clearly and unambiguously referring to the one before the last.... –  Hellion Apr 18 '14 at 17:39
@Hellion I firmly believed that next is always advancing but before your comment. :D Thanks. Answer edited. –  Maulik V Apr 18 '14 at 17:42
If we are in a line (standing side-to-side, not front-to-back), and I am standing next to you, am I before or after you? Next can be referring to sequence, as you originally assumed, or merely to position. :-) (Generally, a "sequential next" will either stand alone ("the next person") or with an in ("the next in line"), while a "positional next" will have a to ("he stood next to me", "it is next to last"). –  Hellion Apr 18 '14 at 17:45

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