The Taklimakan Desert, second in size only to africa’s Sahara Desert, occupies some 337,000 square kilometers.
Does this mean Sahara is the first and Taklimakan is the next in size? cause it is not!
What does only to mean in this sentence?
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You're absolutely correct. That's exactly what it means: in terms of size, the Taklimakan Desert is second to Africa's Sahara Desert and no other desert on this planet. The adverb only is used to convey the idea that the Taklimakan Desert is second in size exclusively to the Sahara Desert - which means that the Sahara is the largest desert on the planet, while the Taklimakan Desert is the second largest. Only in this sentence is really used just for emphasis. Semantically, it does not carry a lot of weight:
The Taklimakan Desert, second in size exclusively to Africa's Sahara Desert, occupies some 337,000 square kilometers.
The phrase 'second only to' is used when something is second in a sequence or list arranged in some order (size, area, cost, etc), and we wish to emphasise that there is only one thing greater, larger, more expensive.
second only to sth
If you say that something is second only to something else, you mean that only that thing is better or greater than it. As a major health risk, hepatitis is second only to tobacco.
Although the Taklaman Desert is the world's 16th largest desert of all kinds, it is said to be second to the Sahara in a ranking of the world's largest 'shifting sand' deserts.